As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wage war on humanity, San Luis Obispo County is seeking a State grant to help beef up its services to folks feeling suicidal because of the virus’ impacts.

SLO County’s Behavior Health Department applied for a $515,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2020 COVID-19 Emergency Response for Suicide Prevention program to cover increased demand for services.

If the grant is awarded, it would cover from June 30 to Oct. 31, 2022, some 16 months. The money would go to “address suicide prevention, early intervention, and treatment,” according to a County report.

The department applied for the grant in May and went to County Supervisors in June to retroactively approve the application. “The funding opportunity was released on May 12, 2020 with a 10-day application period [applications were due May 22],” according to the report.

The grant monies would be spent in conjunction with local domestic violence assistance centers and mental health organizations. And a quarter of the monies are required to be spent addressing domestic violence.

“This grant is specifically offered to agencies responding to a higher occurrence of major depression and suicide related to the COVID-19 emergency and requires that 25% of the grant proposal address domestic violence,” the County said.

The program’s requirements identified eligible applicants — behavioral healthcare organizations and community-based service providers — able to meet psychiatric and psychosocial needs of clients.

The County contacted three local organizations, RISE, Stand Strong, and Transitions Mental Health Association, who helped with the application.

The County’s goal “is to establish a Suicide Triage and Response Team [START] to increase evidence-based practices for intervention and treatment, increase connections between hospitals and inpatient psychiatric facilities with outpatient mental health and substance use treatment, and build community capacity for wellness and recovery.”

The SAMHSA grant would:
• Develop and implement a plan for rapid follow-up of adults who have attempted suicide or experienced a
suicidal crisis after discharge from emergency departments and inpatient psychiatric facilities;
• Establish follow-up and care transition protocols to help ensure patient safety, especially among high risk adults in health or behavioral health care settings who have attempted suicide or experienced a suicidal crisis,
including those with serious mental illnesses and/or substance use disorder(s);
• Provide, or assure provision of, suicide prevention training to community and clinical service providers and
systems serving adults at risk;
• Work across state and/or community departments and systems in order to implement comprehensive suicide
prevention;
• Provide suicide screening and assessment and appropriate clinical treatment services required as a result of
the assessment;
• Provide community recovery supports to assist individuals who have attempted or are at risk for attempting
suicide, including supports for impacted household members;
• Service provision must include tele-health options given the current pandemic situation, available by telephone only and by audio-visual service provision; and,
• Provide enhanced services for victims of domestic violence and their dependents including a safe place to
stay in the event that individuals are unable to remain safely in the home setting.

The County’s suicide prevention coordinator “will be involved in training and activities related to the County’s Suicide Prevention Plan, which includes partnership with the community Suicide Prevention Council.