Staggering numbers roll in for county’s Txt4Life programCarlton County’s new Txt4Life program, an initiative geared toward making it possible for teens contemplating suicide to text support professionals for assistance, is demonstrating some mighty impressive numbers in its first six months.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Carlton County’s new Txt4Life program, an initiative geared toward making it possible for teens contemplating suicide to text support professionals for assistance, is demonstrating some mighty impressive numbers in its first six months.
In an update to the Carlton County Board on Monday, Health and Human Services Director Dave Lee told commissioners Carlton County is the only county in the entire nation to take a lead role in such a program, indicating most are led by state, tribal and campus organizations.
He went on to summarize the statistics thus far, saying that of the approximately 22,000 students in the Northeast region of Minnesota (including Aitkin, Itasca, Koochiching, Carlton, Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties), some 14,000 have already been introduced to the Txt4Life Program, with an eye toward reaching all of them by the end of the school year.
Lee said the program has been “actively used” during the period since its inception in fall 2011. Prior to that time, he said an average of three to four teens would call the state Suicide Prevention Hotline in a month’s time, but since the texting option was established through a $1.4 million grant, the number of young people utilizing the program has increased rapidly. In the month of March alone, he pointed out, over 470 young people from the region made contact with support staff through the Txt4Life line.
Lee said teens who text the line often seek help with relationships, mental health issues, loneliness and isolation, and legal issues as well as suicide concerns for themselves or others.
He explained the Txt4Life program comes in direct response to the fact that Carlton County has one of the highest suicide rates in a state where that rate is increasing at nearly four times the national average. He distributed a document to board members that outlined Carlton County statistics for 2010 as gathered through a statewide student survey.
Lee pointed out that of 388 Carlton County sixth-graders, 14 percent of females indicated they have thought about killing themselves and 2 percent of them actually attempted it. Twelve percent of males stated they have thought about killing themselves, with 1 percent making an attempt at it.
Of 394 Carlton County ninth-graders, 17 percent of females reported they have thought about killing themselves, and 5 percent said they attempted it. Twelve percent of ninth-grade boys taking the survey admitted they’ve thought about suicide, and 2 percent said they have actually attempted it.
Of 319 Carlton County 12th-graders, 15 percent of girls confessed they’ve considered killing themselves, with 1 percent following through with an attempt. Thirteen percent of boys in that age group thought about suicide, and 2 percent made an attempt.
Lee said the new Txt4Life program gets help to kids in need of support in the manner they are most comfortable with – texting.
“I want to express thanks to the board – on behalf of the kids of Carlton County and beyond – for its support in allowing the county to take the lead [on this program] in the state of Minnesota and throughout the region,” said Lee.
He added the goal is for Txt4Life to be offered statewide at the end of three years.
In other business to come before the board, commissioners endorsed a county redistricting plan on a vote of 3-1. Casting the lone dissenting vote was Commissioner Bob Olean, who will be forced to run for his District 4 post in next fall’s election two years earlier than originally scheduled due to the reorganization.
“I understand how this works,” commented Olean, “and I don’t like it, but it is what it is.”
Carlton County Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert explained that redistricting is mandated by the state every 10 years to help equalize election districts as the population of those districts ebbs or flows. If there is a population difference of more than 10 percent, redistricting is warranted to bring that district back into compliance.
In the case of Carlton County, Gassert said District 4 is way over the 10 percent threshold and District 1 is under, so parts of Sawyer Unorganized Township will be changed from District 4 to District 1, and parts of Progress and Corona unorganized townships will be changed from District 5 to District 1.
The offshoot of the redistricting moves is that the voters who live in each of the impacted districts have the right to elect individuals to represent the people of the district. Commissioners in Districts 1 and 5 were already scheduled for re-election next fall, leaving only Olean in District 4 to run for office before the expiration of his expected term.
In Cloquet, the redistricting will affect only the boundaries of Wards 1 and 3, which will move from Prospect to Doddridge avenues.