Nearly 150 Georgia children and teenagers have died by suicide in the past three years, and state officials are taking a hard look at behavioral health services – and how to treat youth in mental health crises.
Coweta County Fire Rescue held a training session for first responders in February geared specifically toward treating young people during behavioral health emergencies. Assistant Chief Jeff Denney, who oversees medical services for Coweta County, said members of his department, other first-response agencies and representatives from mental health agencies attended the Youth Mental Health First Aid class in February.
“It was a scenario-based class that helps responders deal with mental health issues as they apply to kids,” Denney said.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10-24 in the United States, resulting in 4,600 lives lost each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Approximately 157,000 youths ages 10-24 are treated in emergency rooms for self-inflicted wounds each year, according to the CDC. National statistics indicate that for every young person who dies by suicide, 25 others will have attempted suicide.
In 2017, Coweta County formed a Behavioral Health Task Force made up of local public safety and law enforcement agencies as well as representatives from Piedmont Newnan Hospital, Pathways Community Service Board and Riverwoods Behavioral Health. Streamlining access to mental health care for those in crisis – the ones who depend on Coweta 911, in particular – is one goal of the task force, and another is education.
“We started pushing these issues last year in an effort to better educate our people on how to deal with these calls,” Denney said. “We as a county are trying to figure out better ways of actually helping these patients.”
First responders and other health care professionals will have the opportunity to attend a suicide intervention class hosted by Coweta Fire Rescue March 19-21, and Denney said a crisis intervention training session is in the works as well.
Other classes dealing with mental health are being offered not just to first responders, but to the public. A class on how those who have experienced trauma as children can build resiliency will be held March 8 in the Newnan Police Department’s training room.
The class, “Trauma/Brain 201: Building Resiliency” will be hosted by Georgia State University’s Child Welfare Training Collaborative. It builds upon the Trauma and Brain 101 classes, which discuss the impacts childhood trauma can have on the developing brain.
Attendance at the 101 classes is not required for the 201 classes. You can register for the free class at http://bit.ly/2GRqHkq .
New facilities for behavioral health crisis stabilization, walk-in evaluation and short-term inpatient treatment – a joint project of Pathways and Coweta County – will soon be under construction on Hospital Road near the Coweta County Health Department. There will be both youth and adult beds at the crisis center. The new building will replace existing facilities in LaGrange and Greenville.
Most importantly, the task force is putting out word about the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, which can directly connect people in crisis to mental health services, including a mobile crisis team, crisis counseling, and referrals to behavioral health providers. GCAL can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-715-4255.
“The end goal is some sort of mobile integrated health care system here, and better dispatch procedures,” Denney said.