A Boulder County nonprofit that links insurance challenged kids struggling with suicidal thoughts hopes to get a funding boost during the holidays with a unique giving program.
The Lafayette-based Rise Against Sucide is sponsoring its third annual Holiday Star Program to raise funds to reach more youth in the community experiencing a mental health crisis and who have no insurance or are underinsured, said Development Coordinator Kaleigh Radebaugh.
Each participating business hosts a tree or mobile bedecked with stars, Radebaugh said. Every star represents a child in need and offers the opportunity to donate to Rise Against Suicide. This year, a foundation was offered a $35,000 matching grant to Rise Against Sucide, doubling the impact of each donation made through the Holiday Star program, she said.
“The Holiday Star program is so successful and we do raise a good amount of money,” Radebaugh said. “But mostly we want to let people know we exist and we are here. We want people to realize we are here to help young kids going through the biggest crisis of their lives.”
The Holiday Star program is aimed at mostly small businesses including coffee shops and restaurants. This year, about 50 businesses have enrolled in the program, Radebaugh said.
Rise Against Suicide services are offered for youth in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts’ geographical areas she said. Help from the group is needed now more than ever, given the rise of teen suicides in Boulder County and the state, Radebaugh said.
For the last two months, Rise Against Suicide has seen an average of more than one referral a day, as referrals have doubled this year, she said.
The nonprofit connects uninsured and uninsured young people up to the age of 19 who are experiencing suicidal thoughts with funded mental health therapy sessions with private, highly qualified therapists. The sessions happen within 72 hours of receiving a request for help, Radebaugh said.
“We remove barriers for young people with suicidal thoughts and who are in that crisis moment,'' Radebaugh said. “These are youths who pretty much need immediate health.”
Referrals come from parents, teachers, counselors, social workers and anyone else who deals with youth, she said. So far this year, Rise Against Suicide has funded 1,100 therapy sessions for uninsured and underininsured youth in Boulder County, Radebaugh said.
Rise Against Suicide intially funds eight therapy sessions. “But of course, if they need additional help we will fund 12 more sessions,” she said. “We’ve never denied anyone help or services.”
The contracted therapists bill Rise Against Suicide directly. “The parents never see a bill,” Radebaugh said.
Executive Director of Rise Against Suicide, Jenna Clinchard, said in a new release that the organization’s fund raising efforts have increased this year due to the ever-growing need for accessible and free mental health care for youth. Teen suicide in Colorado has increased 58% since 2016, and suicide continues to be the leading cause of death for youth in Colorado, accoriding to the news release. Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a state of emergency for youth mental health this year due to the dramatic increase of emergency room visits resulting from the mental health crises.
Jenna Howerton, Youth Program Manager at Out Boulder County and Rise Against Suicide board member, said in the news release that the mental health crisis for LGBTQ+ youth is also creating strain on the community. “Statistics show that LGBTQ+ youth are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide thatn their heterosexual peers. During this pandemic, many of our LGBTQ+ youth were stuck at home with unsupportive family members and were isolated from their outside supports.”
The Holiday Star Program runs through January 1. To find a list of all participating businesses or to make a donation, visit riseagainstsuicide.org.