CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – A passionate group of leaders gathered in Clarksville last week to continue building a local strategy to prevent suicide among soldiers, veterans and their families.
The group got started last year in response to a U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Challenge to join with two federal agencies -- the Veterans Health Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration -- to find ways to prevent suicide in military communities.
For its third formal meeting, the Clarksville group spent Thursday and Friday with SAMH advisors Donald Harris and Trevor English to prepare for a three-day Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. on March 27-29. There, the group will join with delegations from six larger cities to learn about a National Strategy to create evidence-based strategic plans to prevent suicide in communities using a comprehensive public health approach.
“I’m proud of this group, which is following through on the City of Clarksville’s commitment to lead our community’s battle against suicide,” Mayor Joe Pitts said. “This is a meaningful and tangible way to show our support of the men and women at Fort Campbell, their families and our veterans.”
At the Policy Academy, teams from Clarksville, Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), N.C.; Tulsa and Oklahoma City; Kansas City; Reno; and Suffolk County, N.Y., will work with SAMHAS and VHA staff to share ideas, determine best practices and define success.
At the same time, a separate Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families is rolling out in seven inaugural states. The goal is to create a replicable public health model that can achieve results at both the state and local levels.
The Clarksville group adopted the working title of “Team SLIC (Saving Lives In Clarksville).”
Its vision: “To be a community with the commitment and capacity to end suicide among service members, veterans and their families.”
The group leader is Bill Harpel, City of Clarksville Military Liaison.
Members of the group are:
* Joey Smith, Montgomery County Health Director, Tennessee Department of Health.
* Scott Ridgway, Executive Director, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.
* Misty Leitsch, Zero Suicide Director, Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.
* Lesley D. Murray, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Tennessee Valley Veterans Affairs.
* Carrie Brensike, Suicide Prevention Case Manager, Tennessee Valley VA.
* Kara Merriam, Clinical Supervisor of Crisis Services, Centerstone, Clarksville.
* Sherry Pickering, Executive Director, Montgomery County Veterans Coalition.
* John Bazzano, Montgomery County Veterans Coalition.
* Keith Lampkin, Director of the Clarksville Office of Community & Economic Development.
* Richard Stevens, Clarksville Communications Director.
In preparatory work last week, Team SLIC identified several priority topics it will refine during its work at the Policy Academy. They are:
* Focus on distribution of suicide prevention messaging.
* Establish a Suicide Fatality Review Board to gather and analyze data.
* Plan a Community Summit to launch the local strategic plan.
* Pursue funding for a full-time Community Suicide Prevention Director.