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From the outset, the Depression and Suicide Work Group acknowledged they would need a committed and multifaceted coalition with expertise in mental health to explore the issue across all age groups. They found the 2016 Healthy Youth Survey provided compelling evidence that county youth were indeed at the same or greater risk for suicide than other youth statewide. Further, they discovered that Island County's suicide rate was greatest among adults age 24-44 years, and that a significant data gap existed for defining mental health needs in the county's rising population of older adults.

They also explored the significant changes underway at the state and regional levels to improve health care delivery. Through the Governor's Healthier Washington initiative, Medicaid-funded physical and behavioral health services are being integrated to address needs from a 'whole person' care model. The increased investment of resources to support the initiative is expected to transform health care delivery, including mental health, in the state over the next several years.

Within this changing landscape, work group members recommended developing and implementing a countywide information campaign to increase awareness about the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide risk, and available support services. They also recommended that as state and regional health initiatives gain clarity and momentum, the work group should investigate other potential strategies, particularly if they intersect or build on work underway. Finally, they recommended collaborating with other groups in the community working to improve mental health care and from these collaborations, identify and enlist the support of champions to contribute to future improvement efforts. 

​Work Group Members

Catherine VanWetter, ForeFront

JoAnn Strong, CHAB Member

Emily Maughan, Island County Public Health

Mary Anderson, Oak Harbor Senior Center

Kaui Asinsin, Community Member

Catherine Ballay, Coupeville Councilmember

Betsy Griffith, Island County Human Services

Keith Higman, Island County Public Health

Caitlin Jones, Island County Human Services

Steve King, Oak Harbor Public Schools

Brenda Kovach, Fleet and Family Services

Carla Koegen, Fleet and Family Services

Andrew Mortimer, Naval Air Station - Whidbey Island

Ryan O'Donnell, Compass Health

Jay Shapiro, Licensed Psychologist