Group working on mental health, suicide issues

Brenda Wade Schmidt

A group that recently started meeting to address suicide prevention is interested in Moody County becoming part of the 211 Helpline Center as one tool to help connect people to resources.
Moody County Cares, made up of about 30 people from government, community agencies, banking, business, schools and the ministerial association, also plans a community event from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday Jan. 27 at the Flandreau Elementary School commons. Various speakers are scheduled to talk about mental health issues, said the Rev. Alan Blankenfeld, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and the group leader.
Moody County is the only county in the surrounding area that is not connected to the Helpline. Initial cost to join the system is about $5,000 plus a $1,000 sign-up fee. Moody County Cares plans to seek support from the city, county and businesses to start offering the service to residents.
There will be an initiative in the state legislature this year to make 211 available statewide, said Betsy Schuster, vice president of program development. At this point, there are about 20 counties that have access, which makes up about 70 percent of the state’s population, she said.
In addition to 211 information, the Helpline is also the National Suicide Prevention Line for South Dakota at 1-800-273-8255. While there is a dedicated line for those calls, many also come through 211, she said. Calls are answered 24-hours a day.
The agency has seen about a 25 percent increases in suicide calls, she said. Staff are trained in crisis response and to assess and help those calling because they are considering suicide.
“Our end goal with any kind of call is to make sure that person is safe,” said Schuster.
The 211 system gets help available for everyone, she said.
“Life doesn’t segregate who can run into tough times,” she said.
Mayor Mark Bonrud said he would like to see the county go with the 211 service. “I would like to see this program initiated as soon as we can.”
Blankenfeld said the county group started out looking at suicide prevention issues, particularly in response to a farm crisis but its work has expanded to mental health issues.
“We plan that this group will be around for years to come,” he said. “Right now, with the current farm crisis, that’s what we’re focusing on, not just farmers but everybody in the community.”
The idea was first floated in the local ministerial association where group members decided to be proactive rather than reactive, he said. Young people are also a key area because there are a lot of issues with youth in the community, as well, he said.


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