Citing an alarming increase in the rate of suicide among young people, inmates and Americans as a whole, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy today introduced a new pilot program aimed at reducing suicide among juvenile offenders.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death across all age groups in the United States. McCoy notes 22 soldiers a day and 33,000 people a year take their own lives in this country. The Democrat, who says he has lost friends as well, introduced "e-Connect," an interactive electronic questionnaire designed to identify struggling young people and help them before they make an irreversible choice. "Basically it's gonna be an app you can download, tablet, website you can get on. If you look at youths from the age of 10 to 24, it's the second-largest problem in youth today in this country. Second-largest. Suicide."
McCoy says e-Connect targets young people who have brushes with the law. "Especially teens that go into the juvenile detention system, go into jail, have a higher rate of suicide too."
Albany County Probation Director Bill Connors praises e-Connect and the county's partnership with Columbia University that launched the program. "We are one of 10 probation departments across New York state who will be participating in a collaborative project using this model. The short questionnaire for suicide risk will classify you into three categories. The lowest, class three, will be 'not at risk.' Class two may pose a significant risk, and Class one who are at imminent risk."
Based on projections from Columbia University, 1 percent of all the population will fall under class one, 11 percent will be class two and 17 percent class three. "So any youth that gets arrested in Albany County appears first at the probation department and this test is administered at that time at the initial meeting."
Audrey LaFrenier is President and Chief Operating Officer for Northern Rivers Family of Services, which serves more than 11,000 children and families across 37 counties in New York a year. "We no longer have to wait until people are actually in crisis. We are doing early identification screening that can get people to talk with kids when we know they've been in trouble in the last number of weeks, number of months, and in fact we know that it works."
McCoy says the fledgling program has already helped one individual and will be extended to the general public within the next couple of months.
County projections anticipate the e-Connect app will be used by appoximately 500 people each year.