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Suicide prevention center needs money

DULCE, N.M. ? A center credited with causing a drop in teen suicide on the Jicarilla Apache reservation and elsewhere is in danger of closing its doors permanently, unless it can quickly find money to replace lost funding.

That's the situation facing the Community Suicide Prevention Center and Network here, which has lost its funding support from the Indian Health Service.

The center also receives money from the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta. This funding appears to have been cut off as well, but could not be confirmed. Center director Patricia Serna, who has been trying to find funders for the Center, could not be reached for comment, but did return an e-mail inquiry with a statement.

"We did not receive IHS funding this year. Current funding for CSPCN ends Sept. 30," said Serna. "CSPCN is housed at the Jicarilla Apache Nation, however, it was set up to serve Native communities throughout the country, including Alaska. This was done by identifying and selecting 'consultants' who were trained to provide technical assistance to their own communities as well as to other Native communities.

"We trained both adult and youth consultants on 'QPR' (Question, Persuade, Respond); post-vention; establishing surveillance systems; evaluation of programs; community response; etc. Though funding was always tight, we received excellent responses from the communities where we provided service.

"We also hosted three conferences where community members could share what was working in their communities, get new ideas, and network with each other," said Serna.

The director said the program "is being evaluated by Dr. Phil May of the University of New Mexico. His final evaluation will be complete in December 2002."

Dr. May, in a brief e-mail reply to an inquiry on the program, said "our data show that it has been a very effective program for the teenaged youth of the reservation."

According to Serna, "We are continuing to identify potential funding sources so the efforts of CSPCN can continue. We are hopeful that this effort will not end."

The Center does have allies, though. Spreading the word about the impending closure are a couple of California businessmen, who have adopted the center as a way of establishing their good will as an American Indian-owned business.

Alan Kraimer and Kevin Meeks, both former chiropractors, met Center director Serna a couple of years ago in Reno, Nev., at a U.S. Surgeon General's conference on suicide prevention. They had just started their company, Hanford, Calif.-based National Environmental, Inc., and they were looking to pick out an area they could make a difference in as an Indian-owned firm (Meeks is Cherokee). They chose suicide prevention.

Kraimer recently wore a T-shirt promoting the CSPCN on a 26-mile suicide prevention walk in the nation's capital.

Kraimer's walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention turned out to be 29 miles instead of 26, when the "Out of Darkness" walkers were given a bad set of directions. Some 2,500 people walked overnight, from Annandale, Va. to the Washington Monument in the District of Columbia.

He was one of 15 media representatives for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and he hoped to find a forum for the center's problems with some of the media who covered the walk.

No one was interested, however.

Undaunted, Kraimer sees a couple of possibilities to keep the center going.

"I'd love to see IHS come up with that money," said Kraimer. "I think the government should be responsible for programs like this."

He's also pitched the idea to some of the prominent Indian casinos around the country to pick up the estimated $150,000 needed, again with no luck. "$150,000 for them would be nothing," he said.

And he's tried a couple of prominent charities, like the Gates Foundation, without success.

Kraimer said he feels the program has cut the suicide rate on the Jicarilla reservation by up to 40 percent. "It's needed on every reservation in the country."

Kraimer's and Meeks' company has found a niche in selling medical gloves to Indian casinos for use in housekeeping and food preparation, and hopes to branch into medical sales as well, with the HIS and tribes that have privatized their health care.

Prospective funders may contact Serna at pserna@cvn.com or (505) 759-3162.