Tester Announces $3.68 Million For Suicide Prevention Program on Fort Peck Reservation

(U.S. Senate) – As he fights to pass his new Mental Health Reform Act, Senator Jon Tester announced today that the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes will receive $3.68 million to fund their successful suicide prevention project targeted at helping young tribal members, ages 10-24, living on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

“The Sister Nations Empowerment Project has a proven track record of saving lives on Fort Peck,” Tester said. “Providing quality mental health care is just as important as providing physical care and Sister Nations is essential to making sure the next generation can successfully navigate psychological obstacles and ultimately thrive.”

The Sister Nations Empowerment Project (SNEP) was originally established to generate a baseline understanding of suicidal behavior in response to a 2010 suicide cluster on the reservation. From 2011-2014, the project-a collaboration between the University of Montana’s National Native Children’s Trauma Center (NNCTC) and the tribes-collected data and identified trends regarding suicidal behavior on the reservation and used this information to inform hospital scheduling and protocols, conduct community trainings, and help at-risk individuals.

“We are eager to begin working in partnership with the Fort Peck Tribes to continue building from the successes of the previous grant,” said Maegan Rides At the Door, the MA (Nakota/Dakota/Absentee Shawnee) Director of the National Native Children’s Trauma Center Institute. “This grant will provide the opportunity to expand partnerships within the community and focus cross collaboration efforts to address suicide. A key feature of this project is to obtain input from youth, elders, and other community members on an ongoing basis.”

“We embrace our partnership with the University of Montana in bringing suicide into the light. It is liberating to openly design our efforts to save lives for there is nothing more tragic then to lose a loved one to suicide and then have to grieve a lifetime in silence,” said HHS Committee Chairman Dana Buckles and Fort Peck Tribal Councilwoman Roxanne Gourneau.

“I thought suicide was a personal choice and unpreventable. I now realize that suicide can be prevented, by simply talking about it and making a safe plan. The SAMSHA/GLS grant allows us do this and more,” said Dale Decoteau, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Fort Peck Tribes.

The new funding-which comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant Program-will utilize this data to accomplish four primary goals:

  • Increasing the number of community members who are trained to identify and help support suicidal behavior and at-risk youth.
  • Expand the mental health screening, treatment and follow-up services available through the reservation’s health care system. 
  • Promote cross-over collaboration between the Fort Peck community and project stakeholders to increase community input and participation.
  • Enhance public awareness of suicidal risks and behaviors, particularly among the reservation’s youth population. 

As Vice Chairman of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee, Tester has fought to increase mental health services and support throughout Indian Country. In fact, his new Mental Health Reform Act would reauthorize funding for the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Act Program, a program he also pushed to reauthorize in both 2012 and 2013.