Sheriff's Seizure Fund Supports DCSD Teen Suicide Awareness Program
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock has donated $25,000 from money confiscated in drug deals and other organized crimes to a Douglas County School District program that combats teen suicide and bullying.
Sources of Strength,which seeks to prevent suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse by training peers to know warning signs and connect at-risk friends to resources, operates in 12 district schools.
“What we see when our schools adopt Sources of Strength,” said Staci McCormack, the district's prevention and school culture coordinator, “is we all become much better at preventing suicide, acts of school violence, bullying and substance abuse.”
McCormack called the donation "super-exciting," saying it will help the district expand the program in the district.
State law allows law enforcement agencies to once a year gift to community programs up to $25,000 from their asset forfeiture funds, or money that has been seized from criminal activities.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has previously put that money towardY.E.S.S. — a program operated by the Sheriff's Office, neighboring law enforcement agencies and schools, which teaches students about teen relationships, internet safety and substance abuse.
But suicide prevention has emerged as a key issue among youth.
Approximately two years ago, the Douglas County Youth Initiative,a group that coordinates youth services and asseses youths' needs began looking for ways to prevent teen suicide, said Marsha Alston,the initiative'syouth service program manager.
The program's 2015 Youth Congress, an annualevent where area students bring their tops concerns to local officials, also targeted suicide prevention, Alston said.
When the Youth Initiative learned that some Douglas County schools used Sources of Strength, it connected the program with the Sheriff's Office. So the initiative wrote a grant proposal. A panel consisting of the sheriff, a county commissioner and the district attorney chose Sources of Strength from among 6 applications.
“One life lost to suicide is too many,” Spurlock said in a written statement. “If I could contribute any amount of money to suicide prevention and only one life be saved, it is worth the money.”
Sources of Strength, which has local chapters across the U.S. and Canada, trains anyone and everyone, from administrators to teachers to students or other caring adults, McCormack said.
“This is about all of us just having a different lens on when we go through our daily walk,” she said. “It helps really create a shift in the culture of the entire school.”
The peer-based program teaches people how to connect a friend in need with help, she said. That help can come in many forms. For a student, it may mean connecting a friend with a trusted adult.
Feedback has been positive, McCormack said. One middle school student reported theywouldn't have thought to connect a friendwith resources, assuming instead that listening to their struggle would be enough support, if it weren't for Sources of Strength. That, McCormack said, is an example of a culture shift.
So “to be able to use these kinds of dollars in such a supportive and positive way...to be able to expand the work of Sources," Alston said, is "just wonderful."