Choctaw Nation Zero Suicide Team Honored with Award

Photo Provided

 The Choctaw Nation Zero Suicide Team was honored with the Hope & Healing Award at the American Indian Alaskan Native National Behavioral Health Conference in Washington, D.C. The team was formed in January 2016 with five members and has grown to over 30. One of the team’s many accomplishments is expanding depression screening to Choctaw youth.

September 9, 2018

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Zero Suicide Team was honored with the Hope & Healing Award at the 2018 American Indian Alaskan Native National Behavioral Health Conference in Washington, D.C. 

The annual conference was held July 25 through 27. AIANBHC is a premier behavioral health event attracting over 500 public health professionals, federal employees, advocates, researchers and community based providers. 

The Hope & Healing Award had three categories including tribal, program and community. 

The Zero Suicide Team won the program category award.

The Choctaw Nation Zero Suicide Team was formed in January 2016. 

In December 2015, five behavioral staff from the Choctaw Nation Health Services Authority were invited to attend the first Indian Health Services sponsored Zero Suicide Academy. 

Following the experience, the CNHSA staff were committed to implementing what they learned at the academy into the Choctaw Nation health care system.

Since its conception, the team has grown from a five-person group of behavioral health providers, to a multi-disciplinary group with over 30 members. Members include, psychiatrist, nurses, behavioral health counselors, tribal police, administrators, quality assurance, EHR/IT, pharmacy and administrative assistance.

The team also has the full support of Chief Batton and Assistant Chief Jack Austin Jr., both of whom are mental health advocates. 

The Zero Suicide team wanted to improve all aspects of suicide prevention, suicide knowledge and assessment and treatment of suicide in the CNHSA. 

Zero Suicide has been instrumental in implementing system wide policy changes, and helping tribal members deal with depression and suicide. 

The Zero Suicide Team also decided to make depression screening a priority. The CNHSA was doing a great job of screening patients age 18 and up. However, the team wanted to expand the depression screenings to youth as well. In 2017, a new policy was approved to screen youth ages 10 through 18 for depression. Youth are now screened every three months for symptoms of depression and suicidality. 

Through the hard work of the Zero Suicide Team and the increased number of patients being screened for depression and suicide, behavioral health therapists were integrated into primary care, pediatrics and the Emergency Room.

Through the leadership of the Zero Suicide Team, the CNHSA adopted the Question, Persuade and Refer module in CNHSA’s new hire orientation. A suicide prevention module was also added to the CNHSA’s annual Joint Commission education. 

Not only have these changes been beneficial in bringing training and programs into the CNHSA, but have also increased staffing.

Over the past year, eight staff members were added through CNHSA and grant funded positions. This has been a complete system wide change. 

Behavioral health clinicians are now available to work with patients in a regular medical setting. This allows patients to be seen immediately if in crisis. The behavioral health providers and medical providers are working as a team to ensure the best treatment plan for patients. 

According to Kristie Brooks, MS, LPC Global Behavioral Health Manager Director of Behavioral Health with the CNHSA, it was an honor to receive the Hope & Healing Award. 

“Seeing our programs and our staff recognized for their hard work makes me so proud to work for the Choctaw Nation.  I see the work the CNHSA does on a daily basis and couldn’t be more proud of their devotion and their commitment,” said Brooks. “I’m so proud that their work as helpers, healers, and advocates is being recognized at a national level.”