The TeenScreen program is funded by a federal grant administered by the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention and is being offered to students for free.
Participation is voluntary and confidential. Parents must give permission for their children to be tested, and teens must be willing participants. Screenings began March 13 and run through May 9.
Officials said the program is possible because of a partnership between the state, the Children’s Cabinet, and Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey counties.
Nevada’s first lady Kathleen Sandoval, who works with troubled youth at Children’s Cabinet, is supporting the effort.
“As first lady and in my work at Children’s Cabinet, I have dedicated my energies to raising awareness of mental and behavioral issues and helping Nevadans find assistance,” she said.
According to national statistics calculated by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nevada in 2007 had the 5th highest suicide rate in the nation, at 18.4 per 100,000 in population.
A 2009 youth risk behavior survey estimated nearly 63,000 Nevada youth seriously considered attempting suicide; nearly 49,000 made a plan to attempt suicide; and nearly 35,000 attempted suicide one or more times.
Misty Vaughan Allen, Nevada’s suicide prevention coordinator, said the Lyon County effort began in 2010 when the community formed a coalition to look at suicide prevention as a community service.
“Mental health is just as important as all the other health screenings we do for our kids,” Allen said.
Clark County in southern Nevada implemented similar screenings in 2005, she said.
But to be successful, a community first needs a network of support services, something Lyon County rallied to provide.
“They just had the support and the will,” Allen said. “The Healthy Communities Coalition was ready to take it on.”
Funding comes from the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act signed in 2004 by President George W. Bush. The youth suicide prevent bill was named in memory of the son of former Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., who committed suicide.
The act provides grants to help combat teen suicide, and since 2005, the state has been awarded $2.7 million. Nevada last received $1.5 million spread out over three years, and the state has about $500,000 left.
“We can probably make it through to June 2013,” Allen said, adding that her office will reapply if more funding becomes available.
Allen said she hopes to expand the program to other areas around the state.
“In the meantime, we build partnerships,” she said. “Our success really depends on our partners.”