This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide in Arizona is the 8th leading cause of death, with certain groups at higher risk. This essential public health work is run by AHCCCS. The team has grown to four employees in the last year – each managing a different aspect of the work.  

The team’s rallying cry is to prevent suicides, we must all participate. Some opportunities to do so include

Get trained in an evidence-based suicide prevention training. The Arizona Department of Education is offering free online training (QPR). This training meets the requirement for the Mitch Warnock Act, which goes into effect this fall.

Speaking of the Mitch Warnock Act, which requires school staff who work with students between 6-12th grades to be trained in suicide preventions – ask some tough questions. What is your student’s school doing to meet the new mandate? Do they have a training in place? A tracking mechanism? Do they have a suicide prevention policy on their district website? Does your student’s school have a behavioral health provider on campus? If school leaders don’t have answers, refer them to the AHCCCS team. (Contact information below.)

Do you know of someone who needs crisis counseling, or is feeling depressed? is a new, free resource for anyone in Arizona who may need to talk to someone. You can also call 2-11 for these services.

And the easiest way to get involved in suicide prevention? Check in on your neighbors, friends, and family – especially those who live alone. Isolation is a risk for suicide. A simple hello can go a long way to helping someone feel cared for.

The AHCCCS suicide prevention team:

Zeruiah Buchanan is the state suicide prevention epidemiologist. She is working closely on health equity to ensure all Arizonans have the ability to access necessary behavioral health services.

Brian Planty is the Project AWARE suicide prevention lead. He serves as the AHCCCS liaison with their partnership with the Arizona Department of Education on this five-year grant that brings suicide prevention and behavioral health resources to schools.

Albert Swanson manages a new $800k emergency suicide prevention grant that brings together domestic violence and behavioral health services in Pima County.

Kelli Donley Williams, the AzPHA treasurer, leads the team and oversees AHCCCS’ push to have behavioral health providers in schools statewide. Contact the team:

Thank you for your leadership!