Tag Archives: SMCHD

Local Suicide Prevention: A Student’s Story

BHAT Suicide Prevention Campaign: 2017 Accomplishments

Author: Allyson Myers, Student, St. Mary’s County Public Schools

August 8, 2017

This summer the St. Mary’s County Health Department selected a group of high school interns to work on specific, present-day community issues in order to increase and promote the health and well-being of individuals living in St. Mary’s County. Since my start date of June 26, 2017, I have been working specifically on a Behavioral Health Action Team (BHAT) Suicide Prevention Campaign, and I have found that this campaign has been able to touch multiple groups of individuals in our county. I have been working closely with Greg Reuss, a member of the Maryland Board of Directors for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and my mentor, Maryellen Kraese, who is the Prevention and Outreach Administrator at the St. Mary’s County Health Department. Together, we have worked to reach out to targeted groups of individuals who are affected by suicide, some of which you may be surprised to learn are your neighbors, friends and relatives.

Did you know that nearly 50% of all suicides in the United States are carried out by a firearm (AFSP), and 60.7% of deaths by firearm are suicides (2015 CDC data)? Keeping these staggering statistics in mind, some of the first groups we made contact with were the local gun ranges, retailers, and owners. Our main goal with the gun-owning community is to educate them on the signs of suicide and how to help a potential victim of suicide. This was done by distributing AFSP “Firearms and Suicide Prevention” pamphlets and conducting “Talk Saves Lives” presentations at local gun ranges. The pamphlets can also be passed out to customers at the gun shops after a purchase is made, or can be displayed on the counter for people to freely read. The “Talk Saves Lives” presentation is a 30 to 45-minute presentation on the statistics, research, prevention and support factors pertaining to suicide, and was actually presented on July 16th at Sanners Lake Sportsman’s Club in Great Mills. This presentation is not only available to the gun-owning community, but can also be conducted to general audiences by a trained AFSP volunteer. For example, on July 26th the “Talk Saves Lives” presentation was given at the Valley Lee Fire Department, a local Fire and EMS station in the southern part of the county, and has been offered to other EMS locations throughout St. Mary’s County.

The Fleet and Family Support Center located at Patuxent Naval Air Station has also been a huge supporter for the Campaign. On August 16, 2017 from 6-8 PM there will be a free “Talk Saves Lives” event and panel discussion for all active duty and military family members 15 years and older at the Chapel Annex (building 401). The panel discussion will have representatives from the Fleet and Family Support Center, the Base Chapel, St. Mary’s County Health Department, St. Mary’s County Public Schools, College of Southern Maryland, and St. Mary’s Hospice. This is a huge step in promoting the health of military family members, as the event is geared towards military parents, college students, and high-school juniors and seniors. Student mental health awareness, suicide warning signs, risk factors and prevention strategies are all topics that will be discussed throughout the evening, and audience participation will definitely be encouraged.

Another awesome resource that I have been researching is the national Crisis Text Line. It is a private, user friendly, accessible support system available to anyone, including the 65 million Americans currently suffering from mental illness annually (Crisis Text Line data). Greg Reuss and I were able to connect with the organization, and are excited at the prospect of forming a Keyword Partnership between the Crisis Text Line and our local campaign. With this partnership, our campaign would seek out volunteers who would be required to complete an application and formal training to become crisis counselors who would represent our county. As an established county in the network, the Crisis Text Line will then assign us a unique keyword that we could promote in our community for people in need to text to the Crisis Text Line 741741 number. In return we would have access to anonymous data from the Crisis Text Line on 1) the reasons why individuals who used our assigned keyword were texting; 2) conversations by hour of the day; 3) conversations by day of the week; and 4) the general location and number of people texting from those locations. This data is important so that we know exactly where to target our help, and the problems that we need to address in these specific locations.

Engaging the next generation has also been a huge part of this campaign. Rhonda Harris, Supervisor of School Counseling for St. Mary’s County Public Schools, is very interested in making the 2016 AFSP video “It’s Real” available for public school students. The six college students featured in the video are able to connect with their viewers by talking about how they struggled with their mental health, found treatment resources, and ultimately realized just how important their mental health and well-being really is. One student in particular, Bailynne, went through a very rough transition from high school to college, and started feeling that it would be so much easier if she just could fall asleep and not wake up. After transferring schools to be with her twin sister, she was able to get past these thoughts of suicide and put herself first.

The BHAT Suicide Prevention Campaign also involves working to help college-aged students in our county. On September 28, 2017 there will be an LGBTQ Youth Suicide Risk and Prevention Panel Discussion located at St. Mary’s College of Maryland from 6-8 PM. Key-note speakers will be present, including Amy Loudermilk, Associate Director of Government Affairs for the Trevor Project (the Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth), and Sean Lare of Sean Lare Counseling & Consulting. Additionally, AFSP has an Interactive Screening Program (ISP) that is in the process of being implemented at all three campuses of College of Southern Maryland. ISP is an online, confidential tool that will offer CSM students a confidential stress and depression questionnaire with a personalized response from a counselor, and exchange messages using the ISP website’s dialogue feature. Counselors answer questions, encourage in-person appointments, offer information about available services, and provide referrals as needed. (AFSP Program Priorities FY 2017) With very few CSM counselors available to meet with students in person, this resource will definitely allow more students to gain access to the mental health services that they may need.

AFSP has also been able to support the local Hospice of St. Mary’s, Walden Sierra, Inc. (a primary behavioral health provider in St. Mary’s County), and the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Office by providing informational brochures that can be distributed to grieving and recovering patients, and to community members at the Sheriff’s Office who return to retrieve their firearms after an incident.

There are also many upcoming opportunities in the community regarding suicide prevention awareness and education, specifically including a free AFSP-hosted safeTALK training that will be held at the St. Mary’s County Health Department on Saturday, December 2, 2017. SafeTALK is a half-day training available to anyone over 15 years of age to learn how to identify individuals who are having thoughts of suicide, and how to personally engage and connect those individuals to community resources for further help.

Even though I am serving as a student intern this summer, I am also a Girl Scout in Troop 4949, and I am very interested in working to reach out to this particular group as well. For my Girl Scout Gold Award, I would like to create a presentation based on the AFSP “It’s Real” video to be presented to local Girl Scout Troops in St. Mary’s County. I currently have to submit the proposal and get it approved by the Girl Scout Council in Washington DC, but I have great faith that the completion of this project will be approved.

It is amazing to see how so many people are being educated on how to better respond to suicide in their everyday lives, and encouraging to know that this campaign is part of an ongoing effort to both increase public awareness about suicide prevention methods, and ultimately work towards decreasing suicide rates right here in our county and the place that I call home.

Town Hall on St. Mary’s County Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results

The St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMCHD) and St. Mary’s County Public Schools (SMCPS) hosted a Town Hall Meeting to present key findings from the 2014 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) for St. Mary’s County, Maryland on June 22, 2016 at the SMCPS Central Administration Office. The meeting presentation and associated fact sheets are available below for community members that were unable to attend the Town Hall.

6-22-16 Town Hall Meeting Presentation
YRBS Fact Sheet – Tobacco Use
YRBS Fact Sheet – Mental Health
YRBS Fact Sheet – Substance Use
YRBS Fact Sheet – Healthy Eating & Active Living

The YRBS is a national school-based survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in partnership with state and local-level education, health and governmental agencies. This survey monitors health-risk behaviors of the nation’s high school students which contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social issues among youth and young adults. Monitored behaviors include suicide; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behavior; violence; and diet, nutrition, and exercise.

The 2014 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was administered to students in the public high schools in St. Mary’s County. Participating students voluntarily completed an anonymous self-administered questionnaire about their health behaviors. Survey procedures were designed to protect the privacy of students and adhered to local parental permission procedures.

“The aggregate YRBS data will help us identify the most pressing health concerns affecting our adolescent youth,” said Dr. Meenakshi Brewster, Health Officer for St. Mary’s County. “This information then guides community-wide efforts to provide our youth and families the services they really need.”

Community members are encouraged to review the materials from the Town Hall Meeting for a review of the results from this survey as well as information on local action to address health issues. For more information on the YRBS, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/ or the SMCHD website at http://www.smchd.org/data.

St. Mary's County Health DepartmentYRBSSt. Mary's County Public Schools

Southern Maryland Mission of Mercy

Guest Contributor: Libby Blair, RN, MS, Director of Health Promotion and Community Services, St. Mary's County Health Department

More than 100 million people in the United States are without dental insurance. In the Southern Maryland area, there are thousands of adults that don’t receive adequate or even basic needed dental care, resulting in a silent epidemic of dental and oral disease. The Southern Maryland Mission of Mercy is focused on addressing those needs in a professional and caring manner.

The 2016 Southern Maryland Mission of Mercy will be held on July 29th and 30th from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM at North Point High School in Waldorf, Maryland.

This free adult dental clinic will provide services such as dental cleanings, fillings, restorations, and extractions. The event will be first come, first served and it is likely that the line will be cut off at 10:00 AM each day to allow the opportunity to treat all patients. As in previous years, it is anticipated that this event will provide dental services to more than 600 patients and deliver approximately 4,000 procedures.

Several partners, including the Maryland State Dental Association, local Rotary Clubs, and the Archdiocese of Washington, are helping to raise donations to cover all associated costs, but volunteers are still needed to ensure that this event is a success. Volunteer opportunities include providing medical coverage, nursing support, patient registration, screening, patient escort, hospitality, etc. Volunteers are asked to commit to a 6-hour shift. Every single person that volunteers is making an essential contribution to the health and well-being of the community.

If you are interested in participating as a volunteer or for more information on this event, please visit: http://www.southernmdmom.org/

The Great American Smokeout

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Get ready to lose the habit, and become victorious over tobacco.

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society event the Great American Smokeout. The Great American Smokeout challenges people to stop using tobacco for this one day in the hope they may quit for good.

About 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. In St. Mary’s County, 25% of adults and 19% of youth are currently using tobacco products. Quitting — even for one day — has immediate and long term benefits for smokers and their loved ones.

On November 19, 2015, the Tobacco Free Living Action Team of the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership did outreach throughout St. Mary’s to celebrate the Great American Smokeout. Community members were encouraged to sign a pledge to quit smoking and were offered a free Quit-Kit to help!

Over 200 individuals were reached with these efforts!

Thank you to the following locations for participating in the Great American Smokeout:

Thank you to the partners of the Tobacco Free Living action Team for coordinating this event locally. Special thanks to the St. Mary’s County Health Department, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, the Minority Outreach Coalition, Walden Behavioral Health,  the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions and MedStar Family Choice. 

There are many tools that can help people quit and increase their chances of staying quit. For more information visit http://healthystmarys.com/tobacco-free-living/ or call (301) 475-4330.

Great American Smokeout Materials 

 

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Safe Disposal of Medications

St Mary’s Drug Drop Off Initiative

(Sept 18, 2015, Leonardtown, MD)  Prescription drug abuse continues to be a growing national epidemic. Addiction overdoses and deaths involving non-medical prescription drug use, especially narcotic pain relievers, have risen dramatically over the last decade. This growth is fueled by misperceptions about prescription drug safety and increasing availability. Research shows that over half the number of people who obtained prescription drugs for non-medical use received them from a friend or relative at no cost, while another 15% bought them or took them from a friend or relative.

Consumers can help reduce prescription drug abuse rates by safely disposing of prescriptions through participation in the St. Mary’s County Drug Drop-Off Program. The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office has a prescription drug drop-off available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It’s located in the front lobby of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office in Leonardtownand is completely anonymous. Simply remove all identifying information on labels and place in one of the two drop boxes.

Since the Drug Drop-Off Program began in 2011, 601,015 pills, 525 controlled pain patches and 58 bottles of controlled liquids have been diverted and properly disposed. St. Mary’s County is the only community in Maryland that counts individual pills/units to provide a means of tracking over prescribed medications.

“We have the blueprint, and we know the drug take-back program works,” states Captain Daniel D. Alioto, Commander St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office Vice/Narcotics.  “Although there is a national drug take back day on September 26 every year,  here in St. Mary’s County we take back every day.It comes down to a commitment from the Sheriff’s Office and the community.  This program has made an impact.”

Opportunities for safe disposal include:

  • Two drop boxes located in the front office at the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office in Leonardtown. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The St. Mary’s County Department of Aging & Human Services Health Fair, Friday, October 30th, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in California.
  • For St. Mary’s County residents facing mobility challenges, the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office will offer a pick-up service to retrieve unwanted prescription medications. Contact the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging & Human Services at 301-475-4200, ext. 1050 to register. Uniformed deputies will pick-up your unwanted medications and safely transport them to the Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, September 26th. Last day to register for pick-up is Thursday, September 24th.

In addition to proper disposal, proper management of medications can also help prevent drug misuse and abuse.   Keeping medications out of sight and out of reach from others in the household; never share prescriptions or take someone else’s medication, and only take medication as directed.  A survey released by the National Community Pharmacists Association found that 75% of adults do not always take their prescription medication as directed.  Many forget to take their medication, take less than the prescribed dosage, or stop taking it before the supply runs out. In more than half the cases, the patients made these decisions without talking to a healthcare professional.

Working in support of the prescription drug drop-off program and other overdose response initiatives are the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging & Human Services, St. Mary’s County Health Department, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, and Walden Sierra Behavioral Health. With additional input from local pharmacies and medical practitioners, the Behavioral Health Action Team was formed. The team is a subcommittee of the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership. Its goal is to identify specific issues related to substance abuse and mental health, formulate solutions, and seek funding to assist with services.

For more information: http://healthystmarys.com/behavioral-health/smartrx/

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County Health Rankings

County Rankings St. Mary's

Positive Report for St. Mary’s

LEONARDTOWN, MD (March 26, 2015) – St. Mary’s County ranks as the fifth healthiest county in Maryland, according to the sixth annual County Health Rankings, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. This ranking reflects an improvement from eighth in 2014.

The County Health Rankings are an annual report that grade the overall health of nearly every county in the United States. The Rankings provide a snapshot of a community’s health, and helps to identify issues and implement solutions to create healthier places to live, learn, work and play. The St. Mary’s County ranking was positively impacted by local improvements in social and economic factors, quality of life, and premature death.  Since the 2011 Rankings, premature death in the county has decreased by 13 percent.

“Community partners, county leadership, health care providers, and our residents should take pride in knowing that work done to improve their own health, as well as the health of our community, has yielded such positive results,” said Dr. Meena Brewster, St. Mary’s County Health Officer. “The rankings also reaffirms priority areas that our local health improvement coalition, the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership, has identified and continues to address—access to care, healthy eating and active living, behavioral health, and tobacco-free living.”

The Rankings allow for relative comparisons between counties within a state on overall health and well-being. These comparisons are based on an assessment of four areas that influence health: health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and the physical environment. These factors are rated using local-level data from 30 measures that include smoking, education, physical inactivity, preventable hospitalizations, and the availability of primary care physicians.

Rates of adult smoking and obesity, preventable hospitalizations, and the ratios of residents to health professionals, including primary care physicians, dentists and mental health providers were areas where St. Mary’s County ranked low when compared to the other 23 Maryland counties.

“While the trend of an improving county health ranking for St. Mary’s is very encouraging,” said Dr. Brewster, “I am concerned about the challenges we face with access to care and risk factors leading to chronic illness. With the help of community stakeholders and the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership, we continue to seek solutions for these issues.”

The Rankings are available online at www.countyhealthrankings.org. For additional information visit the health department’s website at www.smchd.org or the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership website at www.healthystmarys.com.

Quit Tobacco

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year. Smoking causes immediate damage to your body, which can lead to long-term health problems. For every smoking-related death, at least 30 Americans live with a smoking-related illness. The only proven strategy to protect yourself from harm is to never smoke, and if you do smoke or use tobacco products, to quit. Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits for smokers and their loved ones.

How to Quit

One of the keys to a successful quit is preparation. A great way to prepare to quit smoking is to create a quit plan.

FREE Quit Tobacco Classes and other resources are offered locally for persons who are ready to quit using tobacco through the St. Mary’s County Health Department.

All tobacco users can also take advantage of the FREE  Maryland Tobacco Quitline available 24 hours a day, seven days per week by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Quit Tobacco

Text QUIT to 47848, answer a few questions, and you’ll start receiving support to help you quit via text.

Click here to access more information and resources, as well as to hear tips from former tobacco users.


Content Sources: Centers for Disease Control, St. Mary's County Health Department, Smokefree.gov

Youth Drug Prevention Summit

Prevention Summit

On March 10, 2015, over 150 St. Mary’s County students participated in and facilitated the first student run

Youth Drug Prevention Summit!

The Youth Drug Prevention Summit featured interactive learning programs, information from community organizations, and keynote speaker Frank Kros from the Upside Down Organization.

The purpose of the summit was to increase awareness and educate community students about the risk and dangers associated with substance misuse. Furthermore,  student organizers and adult mentors hoped to generate discussion about future projects and engage youth in local prevention efforts that will serve to bring further understanding to all St. Mary’s County school age students about this issue.


Drug Summit Links

Youth Prevention Drug Summit Home Page

Student Fact Sheet

Upside Down Organization

Community Vendors

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids

Community Alcohol Coalition

MedStar Family Choice

NAMI Southern Maryland

St. Mary’s County Department of Aging &and Human Services

St. Mary’s County Health Department

St. Mary’s County Library

Walden

Drug Summit News

SMCPS Drug Summit Article

SoMdNews Drug Summit Coverage

Official Drug Summit Press Release