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Governor Bullock, Key Stakeholders Unite to Help Reduce and Prevent American Indian Youth Suicide

Wednesday, October 11, 2017/Categories: Governor's Office/Tags:

Governor Steve Bullock today joined over 75 individuals from across Montana representing Tribal Governments, Urban Indian Health Centers, Indian Health Service, Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the Montana State Legislature at the Zero Suicide Academy™ in Helena to help reduce and prevent American Indian Youth Suicide.

“Zero Suicide Academy is a major step forward in a statewide effort to reduce native youth suicide,” said Governor Bullock. “I applaud the dedication and commitment of this incredible group of individuals who are uniting in this challenging work to ensure that zero suicides in Montana can become a reality.”

Governor Bullock included in his 2015 budget, and the Legislature approved, $250,000 for native youth suicide prevention across Montana. Released in January 2017, this training is a critical component of the Montana Native Youth Suicide Reduction Strategic Plan. The plan, which includes four pillars, aims to ‘establish a statewide infrastructure to reduce Native youth suicide by building upon the best practices available for regional and local impact.’

A major piece of the first of four pillars in the Native Youth Suicide Reduction Plan is to launch a statewide Zero Suicide Initiative, which includes the Zero Suicide Academy. This Zero Suicide Academy is specific to Montana, in particular Indian Country, and participants will take part in the Academy from October 11-12.

According to DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan, the event is designed to provide specific, actionable information and has been tailored to meet Montana’s needs. “It really speaks to our State-Tribal partnerships in addressing important issues together that we think will lead to better outcomes,” Hogan said.

Hogan said the agency worked closely with the Tribes and Urban Indian Health Centers (Urbans) and Indian Health Service to identify the key participants to attend the Academy as there are a limited number of available slots. 

“Those who participate in the Academy will then be encouraged to return to their communities and begin the process of implementing the Zero Suicide framework,” Hogan said. “This has been a partnership in every sense of the word and we’re excited to move this forward together.”

Coalition chair Loren Bird Rattler of the Blackfeet Tribe said the Zero Suicide approach focuses on a system-wide approach to improve outcomes and close gaps rather than on the heroic efforts of individual practitioners. “And, that is exactly the goal behind the Academy is to develop, strengthen and expand the statewide infrastructure among our Native communities in addressing youth suicide,” Bird Rattler said. “This is a much bigger issue than one person, so we must continue to work together and help each other.”

He said research shows that a significant percentage of those contemplating suicide will make contact with a health provider, counselor, or public system prior to attempting. That means the most effective approach is to engage the existing network of programs, providers, and systems around a common suicide prevention strategy to reduce Native youth suicide.

This integrated approach will require engaging leadership in each community to examine current policies and practices and committing to Zero Suicide in health and behavioral health care settings. It will require training frontline staff to conduct universal screenings and risk assessments as one part of a comprehensive system-approach to suicide care. It will challenge behavioral health systems to provide the quick response and care needed.

The Academy is being led by the Education Development Center’s (EDC) Zero Suicide Institute. EDC also operates the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) with funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The SPRC is the nation’s only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, including support for Zero Suicide.

Zero Suicide is a nationally recognized framework for comprehensive suicide care and a commitment to suicide prevention in health and behavioral health care systems using a specific set of tools and strategies. For more information about Zero Suicide go to


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