Mental, emotional and behavioral health promotion and disorder prevention is a relatively new focus, requiring a paradigm shift in approach and perspective. To maximize its impact, FDRHPO collaborates with and supports more than 500 regional leaders, professionals and community members in their work to address substance use disorders and prevent suicides. We work with these partners to raise awareness, expand access to treatment and recovery, and to strengthen the mental, emotional, and behavioral health infrastructure.

Suicide Prevention

To help streamline, coordinate and fund our region’s existing suicide prevention efforts, FDRHPO convened the North Country Suicide Prevention Coalition in 2016. This group — composed of suicide prevention and awareness coalitions from Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties — works together to strengthen their individual prevention efforts, promote a consistent message and efficiently utilize available resources.

Since coming together in 2016, the three counties have worked together to organize regional awareness and prevention campaigns in their local communities.

  • The first regional campaign included a “Cup of Joe” outreach program, during which each of the coalitions partnered with local diners to distribute surveys and educational information to patrons in exchange for a free cup of coffee. This campaign is expected to continue into the future.
  • During another campaign, in 2018, the three coalitions partnered with the United Way of NNY to coordinate a community forum on suicide prevention, featuring Roger Breisch — a former TED Talks presenter and a veteran Suicide Prevention Hotline volunteer. Roger presented at regional schools and in the community at evening events in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. His discussions were also live streamed to other high schools.

In addition to these campaigns, the North Country Suicide Prevention Coalition has launched mobile marketing campaigns, placed suicide awareness and prevention billboards throughout the region, and developed PSAs for local movie theaters.

prevention initiatives
This billboard, developed by the North Country Suicide Prevention Coalition, appeared in several locations throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Substance Use Disorder Prevention

A substance use disorder occurs when the use of drugs and/or alcohol interrupts a person’s ability to live a normal life. Substance use disorders are closely linked to mental health and thus require a comprehensive, public health-based approach to prevent.

In our region, one of the most concerning trends is the rise in deaths caused by substance use. Over the past five years, drug and alcohol overdoses have killed 147 residents of Jefferson County, 38 residents of Lewis County, and 125 residents of St. Lawrence County. In 2017, nationwide drug- and alcohol-induced deaths increased to 109,813, and the death rate has increased by 65% over the past decade.

To help raise awareness of this critical problem affecting our community and prevent future substance use-related deaths, FDRHPO has worked with healthcare and social service providers to implement Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) practices, which identify, reduce, and prevent problematic use of alcohol and drugs. Most recently, FDRHPO offered several free SBIRT trainings for local community-based organizations and medical providers.

FDRHPO also provides collaboration and support to drug-free coalitions across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, including the Massena Drug Free Coalition, Lewis County United Prevention (UP!) Coalition, and the Alliance for Better Communities in Jefferson County. In 2018, we distributed more than 5,000 biodegradable medication disposal bags and more than 100 prescription lockboxes throughout the region to curb the misuse of medications.

Want to learn more?

If you have questions about FDRHPO’s behavioral health priorities or initiatives, our behavioral health team can help you out! Get to know us below to see who might be your best contact.


Pat Fontana
Deputy Director