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Two Wilmington organizations get financial support for suicide prevention programs

Karl Malgiero/Delaware Public Media

In 2012, following a wave of suicide attempts by young people that swept across Kent and Sussex Counties, Gov. Jack Markell took steps to bolster the mental health services available to teens and adolescents.

His administration helped increase tenfold the number of behavior health consultants placed in public middle schools, vastly improved intervention training and worked to address the shortage of qualified professionals. But faced with limited funds and resources, the Markell administration looked to outside organizations to play a role. "We can't do it without our partners. The state government alone can't do it," Markell said Monday, as  Medicaid managed-plan provider United Healthcare Community Plan of Delaware announced it is awarding grants to two Wilmington organizations to improve or expand their efforts to prevent adolescent suicide and promote mental and behavioral health in their communities.

"It's so much better when we all find ways to work together and I'm hopeful this initiative is going to make a real difference," Markell added.

Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf says her office can focus on getting prevention information to the public and leave the intervention work to organizations like the ones identified by United Healthcare.

“Community based organizations that are really on the ground," she said, "knowing their own communities and the vulnerability within their own communities, and being able to better resource those organizations to work with our youth relative to prevention.”

UHCP of Delaware CEO Darrin Johnson says providing the funds is a direct response to the events of 2012. He agrees with Landgraf's assessment. "

The people in the community know what the community needs," he said. "Our role is to be a partner with the community, and we leveraged our resources to the community so the community can do what the community does."

The One Village Alliance and Southbridge’s Henrietta Johnson Medical Center will each receive $40,000 in grant money from UHCP of Delaware.

Alliance president and CEO Chandra Pitts says that's roughly equal to one third of their annual operating budget - and the new funds will make a major difference on the level of mental and behavioral health support her group can provide to young people through their intervention programs located at several area schools.

“That’s a significant impact to us and it will help double the work we’re currently doing," Pitts said. "It will also help take us into probably three additional schools to work with groups of girls and also two new community sites.”

Henrietta Johnson Medical Center's Delaware Futures program will use its grant to develop a web site and mobile app to engage and intervene with teens where they spend time, and as for today's generation, that's on social media.

"Our goal is to have each and every adolescent in the program contribute to the development of this," said the center's Shay Scott. "This is actually going be resources that are developed by adolescents, for adolescents."