Through the proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response for Suicide Prevention (ERSP) project, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. (CITC) will provide behavioral health services and direct assistance, and advance comprehensive community efforts such as training and cross-referral, to address heightened risk for suicide related to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The population to be served include Alaskan adults (age 25 and up) of all genders and ethnicities assessed as at risk for self harm or possible suicide attempts, particularly those who are victims of domestic violence. CITC is a mature, tribally-operated social services agency with an extensive history providing recovery and other behavioral health services to individuals at heightened risk for suicide throughout Alaska’s Cook Inlet region.
There is a profound need for the proposed project. Even prior to the appearance of COVID-19, the demand for behavioral services in Alaska far outweighs provider availability and the virus is clarifying – as well as exacerbating – the entrenched disparities in socioeconomic, physical, and behavioral health conditions that influence experiences of suicidality in Alaska. Few people in our communities have escaped the personal impact of self-harm or suicide. State data released in 2019 tells us that Alaska’s suicide rate has been the first or second highest in the nation since 2012. It is the leading cause of death among Alaskans ages 10–64 years, and the sixth leading cause of death overall – compared with tenth in the U.S. as a whole. In 2017, Alaska’s age-adjusted suicide mortality rate was nearly twice the national rate. The rate among AN/AI Alaskans was nearly three times the nation’s, up 19% since 2008.
In alignment with SAMHSA’s funding opportunity, CITC will conduct and report on all required activities, including developing or updating rapid follow-up plans and care transition protocols, facilitating suicide prevention trainings for community members and providers, collaborating with regional partners for comprehensive suicide prevention efforts, providing screening, assessment, and treatment referrals, telehealth, and community-based recovery supports, and by offering victims of domestic violence enhanced services and direct assistance with emergent housing, transportation, and other safety needs.