The Indiana Office of Rural Health recently awarded its CAH Community Partner Award to Rush Memorial Hospital and Rush County community coalition SPARC (Suicide Prevention Across Rush County). This annual award is given to an Indiana Critical Access Hospital (CAH) that has made a significant contribution to a community partner.
In the fall of 2017 RMH CEO Brad Smith invited senior hospital leaders, members of the local Centerstone office as well as school district leaders and others to discuss ways to combat suicide in Rush County. At the time the county had one of the highest suicide rates in the state.
As a result of this meeting, the SPARC coalition was formed in 2018. Since that time, RMH has continued to support SPARC and its work. The hospital has contributed personnel, meeting space, funding, marketing and activity support as well as grant writing services.
Hospital employees have also taken the cause of SPARC to heart. Every one of the hospital’s senior leaders is a member of SPARC, and both the SPARC President and Secretary are hospital employees. The coalition currently has 50 members and a Healthy Community Fund that is housed with the Rush Memorial Hospital Foundation.
Over the course of the past three years, the hospital has joined SPARC in executing multiple joint projects. These include:
- The IRHA Rural Indiana Suicide Evaluation and Education (RISE2) Project
- Mental Health First Aid Training
- Participation in the Zero Suicide Academy with the goal of:
- Evaluating the hospital for suicide prevention readiness.
- Creating a training program to enable healthcare workers to identify and care for patients with suicidal ideation.
- Fostering a community/hospital-based continuum of care to support patients in need of suicide prevention services.
- QPR Institute Gatekeeper Course Trainer Education
- Attendance at the Indiana Suicide Prevention Network Annual Conference
- Annual SPARC Suicide Prevention Walks
- Distribution of medication and gun safes for those who need to limit access to means
The hospital continues to pursue the creation of a “Safe Haven” on its campus for those who are in need of crisis intervention specifically related to suicide. It has often been noted that those who suffer from suicidal ideation frequently avoid medical care in order to spare their families the financial burden. The hospital is trying to find a way to provide intervention without cost to these patients (there are regulatory impediments to overcome).
The hospital is also working with local law enforcement and other first responders to develop a community-wide protocol for suicide prevention. The goal is to create extensive community education and support, so that everyone who has a loved one suffering from a suicidal crisis will know where to go and what to do in this difficult situation.
Since the creation of SPARC, Rush County has seen an increase in people seeking help for suicidal ideation and a decrease in suicide deaths. While progress has been significant, both RMH and SPARC continue to work towards a suicide-free future for Rush County.