The Department of Psychiatry at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine proposes a Suicide Prevention from Opiates Training Program, called SPOT the Signs that will train 750 individuals from 10 community sectors that serve individuals with co-occurring opiate use and mental health disorders. The training will help them to recognize mental health disorders that can lead to suicide by intentional overdose and steps they can take to intervene.
Rowan University School of Osteopathic will develop an Integrated Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention from Opiates Training Program for Individuals Working at the Frontline of the Opioid Epidemic in New Jersey. The project will target individuals from 10 community sectors that have direct contact with individuals who use opiates. These sectors include substance use treatment providers, individuals in recovery, families with children struggling with opiate use disorders, emergency medicine physicians, office-based opioid treatment providers, and others. The training will help providers identify the signs of depression and other serious mental health and emotional disturbances that can lead to suicide by intentional overdose in both adults and youth (ages 14-17 years old) with opiate use and mental health disorders. New Jersey ranks sixth in the nation for the number of overdose deaths. The geographic catchment area includes five counties with the highest overdose fatalities in the state.
The project is a response to a local and nationwide surge in opiate overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that over 25,000 (30%) of the 83,335 fatal overdoses during the pandemic might have resulted from a suicide attempt. Patients who visited an emergency department after an opiate overdose were 18 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population in the year after their visit. Several mental health awareness training programs have been developed focusing on providers that serve youth, veterans, and other high-risk populations. However, there are no programs targeting individuals at the frontline of the opioid epidemic. This project will develop a new Suicide Prevention from Opiates Training curriculum called SPOT the Signs that uses the evidence-based mental health first aid concept and adapted to this high-risk population with content recommended by a New Jersey Suicide Prevention from Opiates Collaborative.
The goals are to 1) enhance the training of individuals in direct contact with persons who use opiates to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression and other serious mental health/emotional disorders that can lead to suicide by intentional overdose, 2) increase the number of individuals with co-occurring opiate use disorders and mental health symptoms who are referred to appropriate services to prevent suicide, 3) enhance the capacity of first responders to recognize mental health crises in individuals with opiate use disorders and to employ crisis de-escalation techniques leading to their engagement in care, and 4) increase access to written and electronic mental health treatment resources for persons who use opiates at risk for suicide by intentional overdose. Evaluation of the program will be conducted by Rutgers University.