SUD and Beyond: Schools Use NIATx To Improve Youth Suicide Prevention Efforts

By: Kristina Spannbauer, Great Lakes ATTC, MHTTC, & PTTC Communications Specialist

The NIATx model for process improvement was initially based on the question: Could the strategies used to improve processes in manufacturing and other industries be used to improve services in other fields, such as in substance use disorder (SUD), mental health, and educational settings? For the past 20 years, many organizations from a diverse range of professional fields have successfully used NIATx to implement change and streamline work processes. One recent success story comes from an intensive technical assistance (ITA) learning collaborative, Building Capacity for Effective School-based Suicide Prevention, sponsored by the Great Lakes Mental Health Technology Transfer Center School-based Supplement (SB-MHTTC) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

October 13, 2021, was the official start date of the four-month ITA learning collaborative. Comprised of 12 participating school districts, the overarching aim of the project was to implement effective school-based suicide prevention efforts within the schools of each district. Many team projects focused on creating or revising suicide prevention policies, establishing protocol review schedules, creating suicide crisis manuals, and increasing staff awareness of suicide prevention policies. The incorporation of the NIATx Change Leader Academy curriculum within the prolonged learning collaborative training schedule allowed the districts more time to fully develop and implement their change projects according to NIATx principles.

Learning collaborative participants Susan Kennedy and Laura Vanderheyden of the Racine (WI) Unified School District reported that throughout the October 2021–January 2022 training schedule, they were able to complete a full inventory of their district’s current suicide prevention resources, create the first draft of their Response Manual for Suicidal Crisis, and establish sustainability best practices for using and reviewing newly integrated resources and protocols in their schools.

Ms. Kennedy and Ms. Vanderheyden recommend other schools and organizations use NIATx to make significant and lasting process improvements, commenting “[NIATx] helped define a direction and provide guidance on how to achieve our goal.”

For those interested in learning more about the Building Capacity for Effective School-based Suicide Prevention learning collaborative, additional testimonials and details from the participating districts’ final presentations will be shared in upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, check out the NIATx website to discover other success stories and learn how you can use NIATx in your own work.