A suicide prevention program, tested in Switzerland but never before used in the United States, is now coming to Onondaga County.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he is allotting $3.5 million in federal funds to pay for the mental health treatment.
The Centers for Disease Control announced a 25 percent spike in suicides since 1999. Dr. Robert Gregory, a Psychiatrist at Upstate University Hospital, and Director of the Psychiatry High Risk Program there, calls that rate an epidemic.
“Good treatment is like good surgery, you either have it or you don’t, and it’s not just hand-holding, they need treatment,” Gregory explained of the need for long-term treatment.
He added that that treatment can’t come in the form of a few days in the Emergency Room, which, because of a shortage of beds in mental health facilities, is often what happens.
“If we can prevent hospitalization through better outpatient care,” he said. “that’s really one of the cornerstones of getting a handle on suicide prevention.”
Hutchings Psychiatric Center has been designated by the State Office of Mental Health as the place for the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program (ASSIP). It’s a program developed in Switzerland, never before brought to the U.S., but with what Dr. Gregory says are very promising early results.
“There will be a center, at Hutchings, where we can refer, for instance, someone who is at risk in the emergency room, can be referred to that center,” Gregory explained the process. “Get the three interventions and that center can refer for appropriate follow-up treatment.”
It’s a long-term solution. The stages of intervention including patient self-reflection, and individualized paths to recovery.
“The question is kind of how can we increase access to quality inpatient/outpatient treatment in the community and be able to get people the services they need, because suicide is a very preventable cause of death,” Gregory pleads.
Prevention is the ultimate goal.
Gregory says Onondaga County was chosen at the test county for ASSIP because of size, the number of hospitals, and a few other factors. It will be implemented fully over the next few months.