Now for the Hard Part: Putting California’s Suicide Prevention Plan into Action


In November of 2019, the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission released a strategic plan to reduce suicide and suicidal behavior in the Golden State. It was a key milestone for the Commission, capping months of research, public hearings, community forums, consultation with experts, and conversations with people with lived experience.

Now it’s time to put that plan into action – to equip and empower California communities with the information and other help they need to strengthen suicide prevention efforts and save lives.

California’s 2020-21 Budget Act authorized the Commission to use $2 million of its funds to begin implementing the strategic plan, Striving for Zero, over the next two fiscal years. At their August meeting, commissioners gave the work the formal go-ahead, approving a set of initiatives that will address critical statewide gaps in strategic planning, data, safety, training, and support.

Here’s a quick look at what these initiatives will involve:

Advance Local Strategic Planning and Implementation

Now that we have a statewide blueprint to reduce suicide and suicidal behavior, we need to help local officials fortify their attack on the problem. Under this initiative, the Commission will deliver technical assistance to boost the number of counties with suicide prevention coalitions and strategic plans.

The focus of this project is to provide suicide prevention strategic planning that is guided by data and information from partners and community members, with the goal of creating sustainable suicide prevention systems, processes, and partnerships based on best practices. Funds under this initiative also will support community engagement, technical workgroups, the increased collection and use of data, and implementation of planned activities.

Increase Lethal Means Safety

Limiting access to lethal means can be a key contributor to suicide prevention, but it remains poorly understood – and underutilized. Funds allocated under this initiative will help develop a network of state and local partners to increase awareness of lethal means safety to prevent suicide, especially suicide by firearm.

One element involves a collaboration among gun owners and others to launch suicide prevention training for firearm distributors and staff, owners, and safety instructors. Funding also will help counties create a website to increase awareness of practical methods of reducing access to lethal means, especially in the home.

Accelerate Standardized Suicide Risk Assessment and Management Training and Technology Support

This initiative involves the creation of an online training module and curriculum on best practices in suicide risk assessment and management for health care providers, including those delivering mental health services and services for substance use disorders.

Deliver Standardized Suicide Risk Screening Training

Determining who is at risk of suicide is critical to prevention efforts. Over the coming months, officials will work with educators to identify a suicide screening tool appropriate for school settings. Virtual training on the tool will also be provided, and options for submitting standardized and aggregated data for statewide data collection and reporting will be explored.

Create a Suicidal Behavior Research Agenda and Action Plan and Begin Implementation

Solid data is the foundation upon which any successful prevention effort is built, and unfortunately, California’s suicidal behavior data is patchy at best. The fifth initiative approved by the Commission authorizes an extensive review of suicidal behavior data sources to identify key gaps and challenges, and funds the development and implementation of a strategy for data monitoring and assessment.

We’re excited to get these five projects off the ground and support local leaders as they strive to minimize risk, improve access to care, and prevent suicidal behaviors. Check back soon for more news.