The program “TXT4Life” was chosen as the top award in the county category for the 2013 Local Government Innovation Awards organized by the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. This award is in partnership with the Bush Foundation and co-sponsored by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties, and the Minnesota School Board Association, and recognizes government entities for their creativity and effectiveness in redesigning how they do business.
A panel of judges considered 94 submissions for their creativity, sustainability, and collaboration. The overall category winners will each receive a $10,000 grant from the Bush Foundation to continue their work and a professionally produced video to use to share the story of their work with others. Dave Lee, Director of Carlton County Public Health and Human Services said, “We are extremely honored to receive this prestigious award and thank all of our partners for believing in this innovative project and helping it succeed in saving lives.”
The TXT4LIFE program covers northeast Minnesota, including seven counties and four tribal nations — a geographic area that represents six percent of the state’s population, but consistently reports higher than average suicide rates.
The TXT4LIFE program reaches youth in ways they communicate most — through text messaging. Prior to funding through the grant, the Minnesota affiliate of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported answering about 25 calls a month from youth and young adults — a small percentage in comparison to their volume from other ages. With implementation of the text line, they are now receiving, on average, 300 text message conversations per month from this age group. The program is seeing that, for the youth and young adults, texting is the way they are communicating, and adding this service to the 1-800-273-8255 number has been a great benefit in saving lives.
The text line has been complimented by marketing and outreach in the northeast region, including school presentations, community trainings, and distribution of marketing materials. Lee refers to the school presentations as “equipping students with a lifeline in their pocket,” as students are asked to enter the text line number into their phones during the presentation. The development of technology beyond the traditional mental health outreach has allowed for students to get connected to help and resources who may not have otherwise. The outreach and distribution of the text line as a resource has been critical in its rising use.
To learn more about the Local Government Innovation Awards as well as the individual award winners and their innovations, visit www.lgia.umn.edu. To learn more about TXT4Life, visit www.txt4life.org or find them on Facebook.