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Colorado’s Attorney General Wants Pueblo to Address Teen Suicides

A new report from the Colorado’s top lawyer calls on the Pueblo community to do more for Pueblo teens.

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Teen suicides are more prevalent in Pueblo than in other parts of the state and there are barriers to behavioral health treatment that community needs to overcome before things worsen according to a new report by the Colorado Attorney General’s office.

Pueblo is one of four Colorado counties identified as having the state’s highest teen suicide rates. The four counties were part in a study released on Jan. 3 by former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman. An 87–page report by Tampa sex crimes lawyer on that study, called “Community Conversations to Inform Youth Suicide Prevention,” analyzes and characterizes the trends and patterns in the fatal and non-fatal suicidal behaviors among young people in Pueblo, El Paso, La Plata, and Mesa counties. The purpose of the study was to determine the best strategies for preventing youth suicide in Colorado and to direct the state’s efforts and dollars. In case of bankruptcy the lawyers from https://bennerweinkauf.com/hyannis-bankruptcy/ can help.

The AG’s office said Colorado consistently ranks in the top 10 states with the highest suicide rate. More Coloradans die by suicide than by homicide, motor vehicle crashes, diabetes, and breast cancer, and it is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 34.

In Pueblo County, teen suicide rates have been staggering. According to this UCMJ attorney R. Davis younts report , from the beginning in 2012 and to the end of 2014 there was a rate of 10 suicides for every 100,000 youths ages 10 to 18, yet from the start of 2015 to the end of 2017 that number more than doubled to 23 teen suicides, again teens between the ages of 10 to 18, per 100,000 people.

From 2003 to 2017, Pueblo had a rate of 39 youths ages 10 to 18 per commit suicide that works out to an age-specific rate, which is based on the number teens in that age group living in the county, of 13.1. That’s almost double the age-specific rate for the entire state in that same age group over that same 15-year period, which was 7.6.

“As a result of the youth suicide rate, community organizations in Pueblo have taken steps to increase access to mental health care, train providers and other professionals to take mental health as seriously as physical health, reduce stigma among youth about seeking help, and improve positive youth development,” said Colter DeWitt, Health Promotion Specialist, Pueblo Department of Public Health & Environment in the press release. “This report will help to further guide our efforts and supplement work the Pueblo community is already doing by closing gaps and coordinating strategies and programs statewide.”

Current Attorney General Phil Weiser is committing to working on the problem, specifically in places like Pueblo, said Jose Esquibel, a spokesman for Weiser.

Esquibel was instrumental in putting the report together under Attorney General Coffman.

Family ties help, hurt

Esquibel echoed the one key finding in the study in regard to Pueblo, that being Pueblo’s heritage of extended families is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to preventing teen suicides.

“It works both ways,” he said. “And it’s the same with opioid abuse and other issues [plaguing Pueblo] as well.”

The state study touched on that as well.

“Pueblo County key informants described the long-standing, intergenerational ties in the community as a protective factor [against teen suicides],” the report said. “There are large extended families who have lived in the county for generations, so there is an increased sense of identity within the community.”

The AG’s office also describes Pueblo’s history and economy as a contributor to that.

“Pueblo is a blue-collar town where unlike other areas, families have spanned generations. Focus group participants here noted that the deep-rooted familial ties throughout Pueblo have created a unique interconnectedness, which has resulted in a coinciding degree of secrecy. This culture of secrecy was a prevalent theme across the focus groups conducted in Pueblo and was evident in the youth focus groups and potentially in the lack of participation by parents in a parent focus group.”

Pueblo’s unique situation

Unlike the other three counties participating in the study, a Pueblo youth focus group stated in the report that there is not an emphasis in the community or from parents on academic achievement. And with more than 20 percent of the county’s population living below the federal poverty line, focus groups in Pueblo were concerned that generational poverty, along with gang violence and drug abuse spanning generations, has created what the report called “cyclical hopelessness.”

Youths seem unwilling to talk about the problems they face out of fear police or child services would get involved — a code of secrecy within their family these teens don’t want to break. That has made it hard for other adults, like teachers and counselors, concerned about the youths’ welfare to get more involved.

The study’s focus group participants voiced frustration that when referrals to various agencies are made, parents and caregivers don’t follow up with those agencies. Some of the reasons for this is lack of transportation, financial barriers, or, again, a fear that family secrets would be revealed.

A high percentages of single-parent households and what the study referred to as “kinship care” households.

The high percentage of single-parent households and kinship care households in which family members are caring for children is also unique to Pueblo, the report suggests. That has made it difficult for agencies to engage with parents and caregivers.

The county has behavioral health services, support services and pro-social activities, but focus group participants in the study said that a lack of participation by parents and others close to the children prevents those efforts’ success.

The focus groups also stated that there has been an influx in grant money to help troubled teens, and at least that is a positive. Yet  community organizations noted a lack of participation from schools, and school administrators have been overwhelmed with competing priorities. Also many of the grants given to Pueblo organizations are short-term and limited in scope, which creates barriers to sustainable solutions.

And where have all of these problems taken Pueblo’s teens? “There is a level of resilience that has built up within the Pueblo community,” the report concludes, “but also a degree of desensitization to loss.”

Somethings done, more is needed

Esquibel said probate attorneys in Fort Lauderdale area that now Pueblo schools have expressed a deeper interest in addressing teen suicides through a program called “Sources of Strength,” which is aimed at troubled youth who might be contemplating suicide. He said the new Attorney General’s office has committed itself to funding such programs along with a statewide program called “Safe 2 Tell.”

He explained that Safe 2 Tell was started more than a decade ago as a result of the Columbine High School shooting. When the program was initiated it was designed to allow students and other concerned citizens to anonymously report students who have showed signs they were going to cause havoc at local schools similar to the Columbine incident. Esquibel said the program was success, but took an unanticipated turn. The program eventually became a hotline for citizens reporting students who were contemplating suicide. And he said that too has become a success by alerting law enforcement and other agencies to confront youth who were considering taking their own lives.

Northern Colorado’s Douglas and Larimer counties saw a spike in teen suicide in the past but Esquibel said those counties implemented school- and community-based strategies to successfully bring down those rates significantly. He hopes that Pueblo County can use those counties’ programs as a template to bring about the same result in the Steel City.