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Prevention efforts continue



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Middle school teacher Carl Zoolkoski reads over the LO Connect plan as LOHS Interim Principal Tom Tobe explains their standpoint. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
February 22, 2012 - By Gabriel Ouzounian

Review Staff Writer

The fight against suicide continued in Lake Orion last Wednesday, Feb. 15 at the School Board building in the wake of yet another life lost.

New to the meetings, but not the subject, was George Miller, Director of The Oakland County Department of Health and Human Services, who offered the assembled teachers, parents, students and administrators at the Suicide Prevention meeting a look at the county's efforts. Miller stressed the need to be focused and organized across the county.

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"We need a coordinated effort," he said. "The last thing we need is everyone doing their own thing and following the best practices available. This is a large public health issue that we need to get our arms around. People need to feel comfortable talking about this subject."

Miller said the county is following a plan from New Hampshire. He also mentioned the need to include youth in the efforts against suicide by utilizing a technology-based approach. A key part of Miller's plan was the assurance - to anyone - that help is easy to find. Miller believes using technology will aid youth in the endeavor. Orion teachers and parents, however, remained more focused on the township.

"What Lake Orion has been through in recent years is unique - no other community in Oakland County has had this experience," said Carl Zoolkoski, Michigan Association of Middle School Educators Teacher of the Year and Oakview Middle School Science Teacher. "We need to heal ourselves and activities need to begin here and now. Then these ideas can be shared throughout the county."

Zoolkoski agreed, however, on the need for the efforts to be rooted in Orion youth groups.

High School Senior Jarrett Gorman, together with Zoolkoski and a number of other parents and teachers, took the meeting as an opportunity to present their LO Connect Program, an intiative developed by parents George Edwards, Chris Barnett, Zoolkoski, Dave Opalewski and high school students Ashley Bartreau, Leah Deciechi, Gorman and Jacob Berkal. Their presentation was meant to supply a base for the creation of a comprehensive, youth centered suicide prevention program.

"This needs to be the one 'go to' place that gives kids access to all the resources available to them," Zoolkoski said. "It wouldn't be designed to glorify suicide, but to recognize students who have survived suicide. Most people here know at least one of the victims over the last few years."

Yet Miller remained resolute and while he admitted the program was a good first step, he was concerned by the group's insistance of local first. He added most communities have a similar number of suicides that may be reported as something else like accidental death. He also stressed the importance of having a firm, effective plan in place before "jumping in too fast."

"From listening to everyone here, I can see ideas flowing," he said. "I agree at this point all of them need to be put on the table, but we cannot act on them too soon."

Noting the want of the community for a swift start date, he proposed beginning efforts at a meeting between teachers and a Central Michigan University professor who is a noted expert on the subject for today, Wednesday, Feb. 22. not following the best practices available. This is a large public health issue that we need to get our arms around. People need to feel comfortable talking about this subject."

Miller said the county is following a plan from New Hampshire. He also mentioned the need to include youth in the efforts against suicide by utilizing a technology-based approach. A key part of Miller's plan was the assurance - to anyone - that help is easy to find. Miller believes using technology will aid youth in the endeavor. Orion teachers and parents, however, remained more focused on the township.

"What Lake Orion has been through in recent years is unique - no other community in Oakland County has had this experience," said Carl Zoolkoski, Michigan Association of Middle School Educators Teacher of the Year and Oakview Middle School Science Teacher. "We need to heal ourselves and activities need to begin here and now. Then these ideas can be shared throughout the county."

Zoolkoski agreed, however, on the need for the efforts to be rooted in Orion youth groups.

High School Senior Jarrett Gorman, together with Zoolkoski and a number of other parents and teachers, took the meeting as an opportunity to present their LO Connect Program, an intiative developed by parents George Edwards, Chris Barnett, Zoolkoski, Dave Opalewski and high school students Ashley Bartreau, Leah Deciechi, Gorman and Jacob Berkal. Their presentation was meant to supply a base for the creation of a comprehensive, youth centered suicide prevention program.

"This needs to be the one 'go to' place that gives kids access to all the resources available to them," Zoolkoski said. "It wouldn't be designed to glorify suicide, but to recognize students who have survived suicide. Most people here know at least one of the victims over the last few years."

Yet Miller remained resolute and while he admitted the program was a good first step, he was concerned by the group's insistance of local first. He added most communities have a similar number of suicides that may be reported as something else like accidental death. He also stressed the importance of having a firm, effective plan in place before "jumping in too fast."

"From listening to everyone here, I can see ideas flowing," he said. "I agree at this point all of them need to be put on the table, but we cannot act on them too soon."

Noting the want of the community for a swift start date, he proposed beginning efforts at a planned Feb. 22 meeting between teachers and a Central Michigan University professor who is a noted expert on the subject.

Another meeting involving parents is planned for next Monday, Feb. 27.

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