Suicide is a serious and preventable public health problem in the United States. Collaboration among prevention professionals across behavioral health fields has the potential to reduce suicide rates.
While multiple factors influence suicidal behaviors, substance use—especially alcohol use—is a significant factor that is linked to a substantial number of suicides and suicide attempts. This “nexus” between substance use and suicide provides an opportunity for behavioral health leaders to develop a cohesive strategy within a public health framework to reduce suicidal behaviors and suicide rates.
According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse, Mental Health Services Administration), more than 41,000 deaths a year in the US result from suicide. Opiates, including heroin and prescription painkillers, are present in 20% of suicide deaths in the US.
So how are we doing in terms of overdose deaths in Curry County? Well, there is a tool to decipher this information. The problem with the tool is Curry County has zero data. When you visit the OHA Opioid dashboard to determine number of deaths by overdose for example, there is zero data for Curry County. What you can see is Oregon Statewide data.
Why is this? Providers are not reporting overdose deaths to OHA.
Why? We know we have an addiction problem in our community – why then would providers, coroners, and medical officers not want to identify cause of death as OD?
I don’t know the answer to this question. What I do know is the consequences for not reporting fatality by overdose is that we are not demonstrating a demand for services, therefore we have little opportunity to bring funding into Curry County to mitigate the issue.
What we at the Curry Homeless Coalition have chosen to do is offer a place where people feel comfortable engaging with staff, peers and partner agencies serving Curry County. We have received naloxone training and have the ability to save someone who may be overdosing here at the Southern Oregon Coast Resource Center in Gold Beach.
I carry Naloxone with me at all times. You never know when you might be the one to save another’s life. For information on and to schedule a community overdose prevention (naloxone) training, contact HIV Alliance Prevention Manager Dane Zahner at email@example.com. Office: (541) 342-5088, or Toll-free Number: (866) 470-3419.
• Beth Barker-Hidalgo is the Executive Director of the Curry County Homeless Coalition and SUDS Representative, Curry County Suicide Awareness & Prevention Council.