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Who is Garett Lee Smith?
I have referred to the Garrett Lee Smith Grant numerous times when talking about the Metro Area LOSS Team, but until now, I never knew the story about how this grant came to be. Who is Garrett Lee Smith?
Former Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon became a champion on the issue of mental health and suicide prevention, not by choice, but because he knew it all too well. Smith’s son, Garrett, lost his battle with depression and alcohol in 2003, only a few weeks short of his 22nd birthday. Garret was found alone in his apartment in an apparent suicide.
In Garrett’s suicide note, he asked his parents to simply, “Put me in the ground, and forget about me.” But Senator Smith and his wife ignored that wish. Smith worked tirelessly to pass the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which would authorize $82 million dollars in seed grants toward suicide prevention. In 2004, President George Busch signed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act.
The state of Nebraska was awarded a five year Garrett Lee Smith Grant. This funding is designated to provide the state with youth suicide prevention programs. One priority of the grant is to have a LOSS Team (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors), established in each of the six behavioral health regions within the state of Nebraska. Currently we have a LOSS Team in Region 3 (Kearney), Region 5 (Lincoln), Region 6 (Omaha), and Region 4 (Norfolk), is also in the early stages of establishing a team.
Gordon Smith shined light on a national crisis. Unfortunately, it took the loss of another young life for the Senate to open their eyes to the growing epidemic of suicide. Smith refused to let his son die in vain, and to simply be “put in the ground” and forgotten. Because of his advocacy, countless young lives have been saved by the suicide prevention programs that resulted from the Garrett Lee Smith Act.
About Jill Sauser, The Kim Foundation Project Coordinator
Jill graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. During her time at UNO, she completed a two year PR practicum program where she worked with numerous nonprofit clients including the MS Society, The Archdiocese of Omaha, The Omaha Food Bank, and YWCA. Since becoming Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation in April 2014, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, The Omaha Metro Hoarding Taskforce, the Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, the Metro Area LOSS Team, and is helping lead a community-wide health improvement initiative with the Douglas County Health Department called, “Just Reach Out,” which is focused on improving the people’s view on mental and behavioral health treatment.