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Massena “We Care” outreach center established to prevent suicides

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MASSENA - Officials are hopeful a new outreach center will help eliminate the growing suicide problem in Massena.

Police Chief Timmy J. Currier and area clergy launched the “We Care” center Thursday at 56-58 Main St., the Cross Current Youth Ministries building. Several local ministers will take turns staffing the center from 1 to 4:30 p.m. each Thursday. A quiet space will be available for free, confidential counseling.

“These leaders are willing to help people that are hurting emotionally and spiritually by taking the time to listen to people and talk with those in need and make referrals when someone is in distress,” Mr. Currier said.

The center opens as Mr. Currier and other officials continue to devise ways to combat the growing suicide problem. Mr. Currier said the number of suicides in St. Lawrence County jumped from seven in 2007 to 19 in 2011. The number of mental health incidents village police dealt with jumped from an average of 16.4 from 1993 to 1997 to 62.5 from 2008 to 2011.

The latest suicide in Massena occurred early Wednesday, when a 27-year-old male killed himself at Alcoa Field.

“That unfortunate incident yesterday validates the work we’re doing here,” Mr. Currier said.

Law enforcement can only go so far in solving such problems, Mr. Currier said.

“With all the troubles our community faces, illegal drugs, rising crime rates, prescription drug misuse issues and increasing mental health issues, one thing is very evident to me. These are not issues we can arrest our way out of,” Mr. Currier said.

“We need a comprehensive approach that includes a public safety piece, social services, mental health and a community approach of neighbors helping neighbors. I have long believed that this type of service was needed in our community.”

Anyone who is struggling through life is welcome to receive the pastoral care, not just those contemplating suicide, according to Colin J. Lucid, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. But the face-to-face assistance with ministers trained in suicide intervention will hopefully provide help to those in their darkest hour, Mr. Lucid said.

”It really is the personal touch,” Mr. Lucid said. “You’re sharing your emotions, you’re sharing your compassion.”

The ministers will also incorporate spirituality into their counseling. But anyone not interested in the spirituality component is still welcome to walk in and receive help, he said,

Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, Mayor James F. Hidy and other officials also spoke at the kickoff ceremony attended by approximately 20 different community members.

Tina M. Buckley, executive director of Rose Hill chemical dependency center, praised the new counseling service.

The Massena Prescription Drug Misuse Task Force has been brainstorming ways to cut narcotics abuse, one of the leading causes of recent suicides. An anonymous drug “drop box” has recently been placed in the police station.

A pastoral care center aimed at addressing emotional and spiritual needs is another piece of the puzzle, she said.

“The issues are all related,” she said. “We all need to take part in a solution.”

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