Lake Health District recently received an LGBTQ+ Community Suicide Prevention mini-grant from the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Suicide in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority.

The $10,000 grant will be used to support the goals of Lake Health District’s (LHD) All Lives Led in Equal Support (ALLIES) program, which is intended to increase protective factors for Lake County youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or another sexual or gender minority, according to LHD’s grant proposal. This includes developing and enhancing peer-based support programs for LGBTQ youth in Lake County.

The grant will also help provide trainings regarding LGBTQ issues and needs to mental health staff, foster parents and Department of Human Services (DHS) staff, according to Jane Lincoln, LCSW, with Lake Health Clinic (LHC).

Lincoln said ALLIES plans to start a virtual community center where local LGBTQ youth can meet from the safety of their bedroom, car, or friend’s house. The virtual center would help young people who are “struggling to be out of the closet” to engage in community life in a way that makes them feel safe and accepted, she described.

Meetings would be held once a week through the virtual community center, with each week addressing a different theme. Lincoln said some of those themes will include religious faith, healthcare and the stages of coming out.

J.D. Hermann, a Master of Social Work (MSW) at LHC, and Jackie McDougle, an MSW candidate with Lake District Wellness Center, will develop a training for foster parents to help them recognize at-risk youth and refer them to services.

Risk of suicide in LGBTQ youth is significantly higher when they do not have an adult in their life who supports and accepts them for who they are, Lincoln explained. But for those who have just one such adult in their lives, the risk of suicide is reduced by 40%.

Hermann and McDougle will work with DHS to ensure their program meets or exceeds DHS standards, follows best practices, and is designed to deliver measurable outcomes. Their goal is to offer the first training by early November.

Patrick Hornberger, certified alcohol and drug counselor and registered qualified mental health associate with Lake District Recovery Center, will offer trauma-informed care training for Wellness Center and Recovery staff and DHS case workers during the project period, which will last about a year.

LHD is also partnering with Lakeview High School and North Lake High School to implement Sources of Strength, an evidence-based suicide prevention program, during the 2020-2021 school year. The goal of that program is “changing school cultures to make them more inclusive, help youth develop trusting relationships with adults, and help students recognize potential warning signs in their friends and encourage them to ask for help.”

Before any programming is implemented, Lincoln said, evaluations will be conducted so that progress can be assessed at the end of the grant period.

Lincoln said she believes the grant gives Lake County “a wonderful opportunity to address the health and mental health needs” of LGBTQ youth.

Lake County can be a scary place to come out, she noted, and some people leave because they feel they can’t be fully themselves. “We should be able to keep and value the rich culture and creative gifts of our own kids,” she said, adding that doing so would be a gift to Lake County.

For more information, call 541-947-6021.

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