Douglas County leaders reallocate funding to help create coordinator position for Zero Suicide initiative

photo by: Josie Heimsoth/Journal-World

Douglas County commissioners discuss funding for the Zero Suicide Initiative on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

To address local leaders’ uncertainty about a Douglas County suicide prevention initiative, some funding will be reallocated from the agency that now runs it to help create a new leadership position at Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.

The Douglas County Commission at its meeting on Wednesday unanimously approved moving up to $27,500 from Headquarters Kansas to LDCPH to help offset the costs of creating a coordinator position for the Zero Suicide Framework in 2024.

The Zero Suicide Framework is a program to improve suicide prevention efforts for those within health care and behavioral health systems. Last year, the project was led by Headquarters Kansas in partnership with LDCPH, and there has also been collaboration with Engage Douglas County and other community partners to implement the framework in different health care agencies.

However, there have been several leadership changes and staff turnovers at Headquarters Kansas since January 2024. County staff said in a memo to commissioners that it is concerned about the uncertainty for the Douglas County Crisis Line, dispatch of the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center mobile response team and general leadership of the Zero Suicide initiative in Douglas County.

“Since the lack of progress in the first half of 2024, we think there is an opportunity to redirect and change how leadership of the Zero Suicide initiative is managed,” said Bob Tryanski, director of behavioral health projects for Douglas County.

Tryanski told the commissioners that he thought staff at LDCPH would have the greatest understanding of what the initiative was supposed to accomplish, and that for this reason it should be led by someone at LDCPH.

County staff proposed redirecting up to $27,500 of existing funds from Headquarters Kansas to establish a coordinator position for Zero Suicide at LDCPH in 2024. Additionally, LDCPH requested $58,000 to help sustain the position with grant funds in 2025.

The commission then approved the redirection of the existing funding to LDCPH; commissioners did not vote on whether to provide the additional funding for next year.

In other business, commissioners:

* Heard a presentation from members of Bert Nash’s team during a work session on suicide prevention in youth.

As the Journal-World previously reported, Bert Nash is interested in developing a Youth Recovery Center within the next three years, which will provide short-term mental health and substance use stabilization for children. Bert Nash asked for $2 million in funding for the capital campaign of the project. Commissioners do not take action on topics that are discussed during work sessions.

* Heard about a request from Heartland Community Health Center for $1.5 million to support remaining construction on its building dedicated to behavioral health services. The 8,000-square-foot building includes space for individual therapy, play therapy, psychiatric care suites and a multipurpose room for group therapy. Commissioners did not decide on this funding on Wednesday; instead, Heartland plans to formally make the request as part of the county’s 2025 budget process.

* Approved revisions to how the county compensates people with lived experience who participate in the work of certain county boards and committees. The revisions allow the county to use gift cards to compensate the participants on three county boards and committees: the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Douglas County Food Policy Council and Housing and Homeless Stakeholder Group.

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