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Empowering Communities: Ocean Partnership for Children's Commitment to Suicide Prevention
In May 2022, the New Jersey Children's System of Care announced its initiative to address the increased number of suicide and suicide attempts amongst our youth in the state. As a result of this initiative, OPC collaborated with the Educational Development Center Zero Suicide Institute. Each Care Management Organization created a team to participate in this 2-year initiative that included training for the implementation of Zero Suicide. Zero Suicide is a framework to wholistically address suicide to provide better outcomes and safer suicide care.
OPC currently serves 378 youth who are at present or historically experiencing suicidal ideation, plan and/or attempt. "The Zero Suicide Initiative created space for us to assess our practice, knowledge and experience with managing youth who are suffering with suicidal thoughts. It also assisted us in reviewing all employees' comfortability with discussing suicide, assessing, and managing risk and knowing what supports are available for youth and adults," stated Liz Menges, MA, LPC, ACS, Assistant Director of Clinical Operations at OPC.
The OPC team brainstormed what they could do to reach the young people in the community during suicide prevention month specifically. "We wanted to stand out and invite our community partners to join us in an event where we would have direct interactions with teens to provide resources not only to help them, but to give them tools to help their peers if they are not comfortable enough to approach an adult in their life," explained Jennifer Liscombe, MA, Lead Care Manager at OPC. Through this, the Dare to Care event was created. "The name, Dare to Care was inspired by our focus on teenagers in our community and encouraging them to care for others, go out of their way to talk to others and be kind and also to promote other alternatives to suicide that teenagers can participate in to promote healthy lifestyle and mindset," continued Liscombe. "We figured it's common for teenagers not to be up for a challenge like this, but if they are dared to do something, chances are they will be more likely to do it. That's the hope."
This year's Dare to Care event will take place on September 19th outside the OPC office in downtown Toms River, closest to Toms River High School South. It will include spreading awareness for suicide prevention, providing resources via hotlines, text lines, agencies to outreach, and phone applications to utilize prior to a crisis. The event will have giveaways with prizes that encourage youth to practice self-care and self-love. Youth will be painting stones with positive or kind messages and hiding them in the community and around downtown Toms River for others to find. "The goal is to have these positive messages brighten the person's day who may find them and also show our youth that small actions can make a large impact," noted Liscombe. "Every year, we hope Dare to Care can spread positivity, encourage people struggling to speak out and get help and above all else, we hope Dare to Care can be a catalyst to prevent suicide for everyone in our community."
In addition to the Dare to Care event, OPC will also be participating in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk in Belmar on September 23rd. The Out of the Darkness Community Walk is a journey of remembrance, hope, and support. It unites communities and provides an opportunity to acknowledge the ways in which suicide and mental health conditions have affected our lives and the lives of those we love and care about.
In the event that someone is having suicidal thoughts, the following resources can help:
Founded in 2005, Ocean Partnership for Children (OPC) is Ocean County's Care Management Organization (CMO). Its mission is to enhance the well-being of youth and their families through natural and community supports. OPC provides care coordination services for Ocean County youth up the age of 21 years who have mental health, substance use, intellectual and developmental challenges. OPC strives to keep children and adolescents at home, in school, and in the community by connecting them to resources that meet their unique needs and help them achieve their goals.
Ocean Partnership for Children is a non-profit organization available at no cost to all youth and families in Ocean County who meet the eligibility criteria of the New Jersey Children's System of care. To learn more, visit https://www.oceanpartnership.org or www.oceanresourcenet.org.
Design 446, Allison Brown