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Districts can tap coordinators and get grants to help stop youth from taking their own lives

COURTESY PHOTO: BASIC RIGHTS OREGON - Adi Staub's suicide in 2017 prompted state legislation requiring schools to have suicide prevention plans in place.

Three years after taking her own life, Adi Staub is making an impact statewide with a new suicide prevention program launched for all Oregon schools that grew out of her tragic passing.

The death of the young transgender woman, who attended Portland's Grant High School, led lawmakers to pass Adi's Act last year and also make suicide prevention part of the Student Success Act. The new legislation requires all Oregon school districts to have suicide prevention, intervention and response policies and plans. The laws established a statewide School Safety and Prevention System.

Tuesday, Sept. 1, the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Education, nonprofit Lines for Life and local suicide prevention advocates announced they are collaborating to launch the Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program for Oregon school districts.

The program will allow Lines for Life to hire four regional school suicide prevention and wellness coordinators across the state. It also will make small grants to school districts for training and curriculum for suicide prevention.

"This program is being designed and implemented by a very special group of leaders, staff and volunteers across many organizations," Lon Staub, Adi's father, said in the announcement of the program.

The goal is to "to support school districts in implementing and sustaining solid, evidence-based and racial equity centered suicide prevention policies and plans," according to the announcement.

There were 129 suicide deaths by youth aged 24 and younger in Oregon in 2018, making suicide the leading cause of death for Oregonians ages 10 to 24, according to the most recent state statistics. The number of youth suicides has been rising in recent years.

In spring 2020, before the creation of the School Suicide Prevention and Wellness Program, the Oregon Health Authority started funding one position at Lines for Life to support school districts with Adi's Act implementation and to make some small grants to school districts.

The four new Lines for Life positions will work with local suicide prevention coordinators, school districts, educational service districts and other local organizations. The coordinators, who will begin work in the 2020-21 school year, will serve the Willamette Valley, Central Oregon, Southwest Oregon and Eastern Oregon.

Dwight Holton, executive director of Lines for Life, said in the announcement: "This is going to save lives. It's bringing together schools, public health and, most importantly, community to do the work Adi's Act envisioned."

Lines for Life, in partnership with the state health agency, will make grants to school districts of up to $1,500 to cover costs of staff and student training and curriculum, as well as other costs associated with implementation of school suicide prevention plans.

Additional funding from the Oregon Health Authority is available for school districts or local suicide prevention leaders to offer various trainings to students, staff, school counselors, parents and other adults.

Basic Rights Oregon, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, worked with Adi's family to develop and introduce Adi's Act. After it passed, Basic Rights Oregon also helped in planning.

"The purpose of Adi's Act is to ensure that, no matter who students love or how they identify, they are protected, supported and see a future for themselves in Oregon, " Nancy Haque, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon said in the announcement.

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