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‘We can save lives’: C.O. Suicide Prevention Alliance points to high rates, launches secure firearm storage campaign

(Update: Adding video, comments from staff)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The numbers are concerning: Suicide rates by firearms in Central Oregon are higher than state and national averages. The Central Oregon Suicide Prevention Alliance recently launched a campaign to address that, focused on safely storing firearms. 

"What we see in the Central Oregon region is that suicide rates by firearm arms are higher," Caroline Suiter, a mental health prevention strategist, said Monday. "So we're at 12.1 per 100,000 individuals in our region. Compare that to the state of Oregon, which is 11.9, so a little bit lower than us, 11.9 per 100,000 individuals."

When compared to the national rate of 7.9 per 100,000, Central Oregon's 12.1 is significantly higher.

The threat spreads across all ages, but there's particular concern for families with children in homes where firearms are unsecured. 

Suicide Prevention Project Coordinator Bethany Kuschel said, "We know that by creating as much time and distance by someone in a crisis and a lethal means, we can save lives."

The Central Oregon Suicide Prevention Alliance works to lower suicide deaths and attempts across Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson County.

COSPA recently released one PSA, focusing on adults. Another will be released in June focusing on  youth and family. 

The PSAs are available in English and Spanish, and were created with input from firearm owners, law enforcement agencies and retailers. 

COSPA also launched a website, Safe Firearm, outlining options for safely and securely storing firearm like secure boxes, cabinets and cable locks. 

There's also advice about how to start a conversation about safe storage. 

Kuschel said, "This project wants to work with firearm owners, to empower them to come up with ways that work for them."

 Ongoing education efforts also include a reminder of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline which can be reached by dialing 9-8-8. It provides free and confidential emotional support.

Here is the press release:

Suicide rates by firearm in Central Oregon are higher than statewide and national averages. With that in mind, the Central Oregon Suicide Prevention Alliance has released two new public service announcements and launched a website that encourages the community to store firearms in secure locations. 

The PSAs (available in English and Spanish) were created with input from firearm owners, law enforcement agencies and retailers. They will begin airing at the end of April. Additional resources and information about secure firearm storage are available at    

COSPA is a regional entity aiming to lower suicide deaths and attempts across the lifespan in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

To learn more about secure firearm storage, visit:

For more information, please contact Caroline Suiter, Deschutes County Health Services, at (541) 322-7420.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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