Vermont Suicide Prevention Coalition

VTSPC December 2022 Coalition Meeting Recap

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VTSPC December 2022 Coalition Meeting Recap

December 8, 2022
Thank you all for your continued engagement in the Coalition. 47 people attended the Vermont Suicide Prevention Coalition (VTSPC) meeting that was held virtually on December 8, 2022.

Welcome and Warm-up

Kirk Postlewaite, Senior Program Specialist, Kate Morey, Program and Policy Specialist, Eric Jones, Technology and Marketing Specialist, and Zan Lewis, Program Specialist

Zan shared the purpose of the Coalition and handed it over to Kirk, who introduced the warmer: What are you going to do for self-care as we head into the end of this year? Are there any tidbits of wisdom you’ve learned about rest, self-care, that you want to share with your breakout group?

Current State of Suicide Prevention efforts at the Department of Mental Health

Alex Karambelas, Senior Policy Director and Alison Krompf, Deputy Commissioner, shared information about the FY22 budget expansion and more about the process of planning for alternatives to the use of Emergency Departments for mental health needs in Vermont. 

Alison discussed activities to advance evidence-based and best practice approaches to suicide prevention, including 

  1. the Mini-grant Suicide Safer Pathways to Care project; 
  2. CAMS (Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality); and 
  3. Umatter.

Also discussed were 3 focus areas of the Governor’s Challenge for Suicide Prevention:

  1. identifying Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF);
  2. promoting connectedness and improving care transitions; and 
  3. increasing lethal means safety and safety planning. 

Update on the Suicide Prevention Grant awarded to VT from the CDC – Facing Suicide

Nick Nichols, Suicide Prevention Program Coordinator, shared updates on Vermont’s Postvention Strategy as part of the CDC Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Grant. Data was collected via working groups, key informant interviews, and surveys to understand postvention needs throughout the state. Several needs were identified, as well as five goals for the project (both detailed in the Meeting Notes). Given the needs and goals of the project, Nick discussed four areas of focus for the upcoming year: 1) develop and distribute resource packets for loss survivors and first responders statewide; 2) offer training for first responders on postvention best practices; 3) develop and promote postvention best practice guidelines for first responders and mental health response; and 4) implement a suicide death data linkage project.

Update on the monthly suicide data

Caitlin Quinn, Public Health Analyst, presented the monthly suicide report showing that 93 Vermont residents died by suicide, which is higher than the 3-year-average. Caitlin also shared that the rate of suicide deaths among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color populations is higher than in the previous three years. Also discussed were ED visits related to suicide with differences among various counties and data on safe storage for firearms and reduced risk. 

Advocacy with Heather White

Heather White, AFSP Area Director, took the group through an overview of legislation and advocacy with current updates on priorities identified for Vermont in the coming legislative season. Funding supporting 988 and wraparound services, expanding Zero Suicide and other suicide prevention activities were included, as well as school-based initiatives, the creation of a suicide fatality review board, and coordination between 911 and 988 numbers.

Heather showed the process of how a bill becomes a law as well as some sample materials for legislative advocacy day for members who want to advocate for the above priorities. Heather shared website and contact resources (found in the Meeting Notes) and some concrete action items for how we can connect with legislators to promote efforts to support suicide prevention.

Alternatives to Suicide

Sera Davidow, Wildflower Alliance and Malaika Puffer, Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of Vermont, Sera shared an overview of Alternatives to Suicide and Wildflower Alliance’s work while Malaika gave examples of how Alt2Su has been implemented at HCRS. Sera noted that Alternatives to Suicide focuses on harm reduction over the removal of suicidal thoughts, and that the approach emphasizes a collaborative relationship ensuring the individual experiencing suicidal thoughts retains their own empowerment. Part of this is to support individuals to make meaning in their lives which can result in the ability to live with suicidal ideation rather than be overcome by them. Alternatives to Suicide allows community members to talk about suicide and suicidal ideation without fear of consequences.

Malaika shared that at HCRS the Alternatives to Suicide working group has collaborated with Wildflower Alliance to incorporate trainings and align policies and procedures with the values and priorities identified by the team and the Alt2Su approach. She noted some challenges – one being that staff were trained prior to policy alignment which led to lack of confidence about what practitioners could and could not do without liability risk. See more examples and Sera and Malaika’s contact information in the Meeting Notes.

Be SMART for Kids

Pat Byrd and Seton McIlroy, MOMs Demand Action. Pat introduced the program Be SMART, developed by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. The program brings together parents and all adults concerned about kids, guns, and safety. Pat shared some data around firearm lethality and cited that 4.5 million U.S. children live in a household with at least one loaded, unlocked gun. The Be SmART campaign teaches people tangible examples about what secure storage means and what it looks like, and how to approach the discussion of gun safety with children. 

Pat also discussed Extreme Risk Protective Orders (ERPOs) as a tool to reduce firearm suicide. Vermont’s ERPO law has been used 74 times since its inception in 2017. When an ERPO is issued, weapons are removed from the owner, kept for six months, and then returned without punishment or criminal record. An individual during this time is also prohibited from purchasing a firearm. Other state ERPO information is linked in the Meeting Notes.

Trainings and Resources

Please view the 2015 Vermont Suicide Prevention Platform. The document will be updated according to Suicide Prevention Resource Center and previous versions were developed based on the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. See Meeting Notes for more information and to contact Zan Lewis with questions.

Also shared was a list of Winter/Spring 2023 VTSPC Trainings – see the full list for linked trainings with date and registration information.

You can view the full VT Suicide Safer Pathways Project 2022 Evaluation Report here.

Please visit to download free HELP resources, which are now updated to include 988 Lifeline Information.

NKHS is offering 3 more QPR introductory suicide prevention awareness trainings in 2023. If interested, please email Ruth Marquette at

Laurie Emerson of NAMI Vermont invites everyone to the virtual 8th Annual Mental Health Advocacy Day on January 30th, 2023. You can learn more at

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