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Representatives from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) visited the Doane campus this past Thursday afternoon to help the college raise the awareness and prevention of suicide among students in southeastern Nebraska. These representatives were hand delivering a $7,000 award check to Doane’s Southeastern Nebraska Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program to fund the training and certification of 20 School Suicide Prevention Specialists. The award was one of eight BCBSNE 2013 Wellness grants awarded out of 54 applications.
The Southeastern Nebraska Area Health Education Center is a program of Doane College through an agreement with the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The Doane AHEC covers a 17-county area of southeast Nebraska providing health education and information, and promotion of health careers.
Closely aligned with Doane’s AHEC mission, the BCBSNE grant-funded project establishes a proactive effort to provide an effective suicide prevention program in southeastern Nebraska schools. It will involve 20 individuals (school psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses. teachers, and/or graduate level counseling students) dedicated to or responsible for reducing the incidence of suicide and suicidal behaviors among school age youth. Successful participants in the education and training program will become accredited Suicide Prevention Specialists in their respective schools. The School Suicide Prevention Accreditation Program is conducted by the American Association of Suicidology.
According to Rob Trebilcock, Director of Community Engagement for BCBSNE, the Nebraska organization has awarded over half a million dollars to communities outside of Omaha and Lincoln during the six years of the Wellness grant award program. “We are looking for innovative things, underserved populations, health and wellness innovation which we know is not always something you can see. We are happy to partner with Doane and look forward to hearing about your great results.”
In accepting the BCBSNE check, Doane President Jacque Carter spoke of the importance of the suicide prevention effort and how this is “symbolic of Doane’s entry into health and wellness, and relationship with AHEC.” Drew Case, Doane’s AHEC Executive Director, emphasized the importance of the grant and how it “has opened up a lot of other opportunities.”
In addition to the BCBSNE-funded program, 20 current Doane graduate counseling students and six professional counselors who are recent graduates from Doane’s Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) program have signed up for the suicide awareness and prevention program. The cost for these participants is being funded by Doane’s AHEC program. When hearing about the BCBSNE-funded opportunity, Jean Kilnoski, Assistant Dean of the MAC program, persuaded Doane’s AHEC to expand the training and certification effort to provide opportunities for MAC students. It is anticipated that an additional 50 Doane AHEC-funded counseling students will participate in this opportunity. All of this is occurring as the result of the BCBSNE grant opportunity and the awareness it created.
Dave Miers, from Bryan Medical Center representing the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, applauded the program, noting that suicide is the second leading cause of death among Nebraska teens and third in the nation. The coalition started in 1999 as a volunteer group of professionals and organizations to engage communities across Nebraska in talking about suicide prevention to save lives.