In a county with many recreational firearms enthusiasts and a high rate of suicide, the partnership works to distribute cable locks for guns to the community to encourage people to store their weapons safely.
"[People] say, my kids are trained in firearm safety. They absolutely know how to use a firearm safely and how to handle it safely. What we're saying is that there is an importance to reduce the access to that firearm and create that pause in the situations where somebody is not mentally stable," said Cassandra Walton, executive director of Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Partnership.
One of the city’s emergency departments at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs has also been distributing cable locks for firearms and lock boxes for firearms and medications, after a study conducted at that emergency department and others across the state suggested offering those items to families of suicidal youth who visited the emergency room made a difference.
“It was very life changing for me as an evaluator,” said Andrea Wood, the Zero Suicide coordinator at the hospital. “Here's what your child knows. They know where your weapon is located … and that means they can act on it. And it's usually a split [second] decision for kids and, and with a gun, usually they can't come back from that.”
The study followed up with families who had visited the emergency department to ask about their storage practices, then trained emergency room staff to counsel families about securing firearms and medications and offer them locking devices.
“What's really important is that we found on follow-up, the families who had received counseling in the phase after training, those families were at least twice as likely to have locked up firearms or medications at home. That really suggests that this kind of counseling by clinicians has an effect,” said Dr. Emmy Betz, a University of Colorado Anschutz associate professor and emergency physician who helped design the study.