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Jefferson's Department of Psychiatry Receives Three-Year Suicide Prevention Grants


Philadelphia, PA—Through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that was given to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University was awarded a subcontract, averaging about $70,000 per year for three years, to serve as the training center for a suicide prevention project. Pennsylvania is one of 42 states to receive a portion of grant awards funded under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act.

Concurrently, Thomas Jefferson University received a second three-year grant of $102,000 annually from SAMHSA with a goal of fulfilling the components of its JeffHELP Campus Suicide Prevention Project — (H)eightened awareness of suicide prevention, (E)ducation around suicide risk factors, (L)inkage to services and (P)romoting healthy behaviors. The University will match the award by providing an additional $102,000 annually to support the project. The award was provided through the Affordable Care Act Prevention Funds for youth suicide prevention programs.

"Suicide is a significant public health problem and is believed to be the second leading cause of death among American college students," says Dr. Matthew Wintersteen, a clinical psychologist and researcher in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Thomas Jefferson University. "Other high-risk populations include medical students and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Through working with our students, faculty, and staff at Jefferson, as well as primary care providers, it is our hope that these suicide prevention services become more accessible and help save lives."

For the subcontract award, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was the first and only grant recipient to have its funds directed at providing suicide prevention efforts in the primary care setting. Four Jefferson-affiliated practices will serve as performance sites for the project, including Pediatric, Family and Community Medicine, and University Health practices, and Mazzoni Center — a health and wellness center for Philadelphia LGBT residents. The project aims include:

  • Create county and local advisory boards consisting of a broad range of stakeholders
  • Educate and train primary care providers in suicide risk assessment
  • Utilize a web-based psychosocial screening tool
  • Increase integration of behavioral health services with medical services
  • Provide clinical training to behavioral health providers who receive referrals and treat those at risk for suicide

"The loss of a young life to suicide is an immeasurable tragedy, made worse by the fact that it's preventable," says Dr. Wintersteen. "Jefferson's grant award with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is an important step in providing life-saving help to those who urgently need it. It allows effective suicide prevention services to be available where Southeastern Pennsylvania youth most need them."

For more information, contact: Jennifer McGowan Smith, Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital, 211 South 9th Street, Suite 310, Philadelphia, PA 19107, (215) 955-5507, (215) 955-5008 fax, or email