MHSA Showcase Webinar
HELD: Wednesday, September 30, 2020, 9:00am – 11:30am (PST)
The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) hosted two Showcases of exemplary Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) programs. The MHSA Showcase was an opportunity to prominently feature successful MHSA-funded programs and increase information sharing across counties and mental health plans.
The Showcase presentations highlighted programs that serve unique populations.
County of Santa Clara’s Suicide Prevention (SP) Program
Mego Lien, MPH, MIA, Suicide Prevention Manager
Vic Ojakian, Former Palo Alto Mayor, Activist
Our presentation showcased the County of Santa Clara’s Suicide Prevention (SP) Program that was developed in 2010 in response to a cluster of suicides that took place in Palo Alto high schools. With the overall goal of reducing and preventing suicides in Santa Clara County, the SP Program applies a comprehensive public health approach, with six associated program objectives that address suicide from all levels of the prevention continuum and socioecological model. While the program targets youth, middle-aged, and older adults through its work, the SP Program and Suicide Prevention Oversight Committee (SPOC) also specify target populations according to annual suicide death data analysis that accounts for disproportionately affected cultural groups. Even though MHSA PEI does not require a SP program per regulations, the success of the county’s program, the data-driven approach, the strong participation of community advocates, and the outcomes produced have all helped to prioritize this program.
As Suicide Prevention Manager of the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department in California, Mego Lien manages public health efforts to prevent suicide across the County, which is located in Silicon Valley and includes the City of San José. Previously, Mego worked on the Injury and Trauma Prevention team at Prevention Institute, a national public health non-profit that advocates for primary prevention and community wellbeing. She has several years of experience in prevention of chronic disease and injury in low- and middle-income countries. Mego has also worked as a suicide crisis line volunteer in New York City and as a sexual assault counselor and advocate in San Mateo County, CA. She holds dual Master’s of Public Health and International Relations from Columbia University in New York and a bachelors in psychology and education from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.
Mego’s global health experience includes managing national public education and policy advocacy programs in Southeast Asia, focusing on tobacco control and road safety, with the non-governmental organization Vital Strategies. She has also worked on gender-based violence prevention with the United Nations Development Programme in Thailand, and on health systems-strengthening with The Earth Institute in New York City, supporting the federal government of Nigeria.
Mego began her career in magazine journalism, covering women’s health and beauty for American magazine titles. She grew up in Taipei, Taiwan and is proficient in Mandarin and French.
Vic Ojakian lives with the wound of having lost a son to suicide. He knows the ache of loving and missing someone who by all rights should still be at your side.
Vic’s son, Adam, died by suicide, at age 21, while a student at UC Davis. In the 14 years since, Vic has channeled his grief into determined efforts to grow suicide awareness and prevention programs at the local and statewide levels. His goal is to give people considering suicide solutions other than death, and to give families, schools and communities tools for effective and timely intervention.
Each year in California, 4,000 people die by suicide, and another 45,000 try to do so. It is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 0-18. One recent survey found that more than half of Californians have lost someone to suicide or know someone who tried. “I don’t know of another public health issue of this magnitude that’s not being addressed,” Vic said in a 2014 interview with A2A Alliance.
Vic and his wife, Mary, have worked doggedly to both educate and legislate around the issue. Vic, a former Mayor and City Councilman in Palo Alto, is Co-President of NAMI Santa Clara County. He and his wife developed a tool kit for suicide prevention in use in middle and high schools around the state. Vic has advocated for millions of dollars in state funding to develop suicide prevention plans at college campuses. He has successfully pushed legislation to ensure mental health professionals in the state are trained in effective suicide prevention techniques.
At core, Vic’s message is that suicide is preventable, and we can’t be afraid to talk about it: “When people start to understand we can do something,” he told A2A, “something will get done.”
We salute you, Vic, for drawing strength from loss, and for your efforts to weave a stronger safety net for all our children.
Click the link to view the entire presentation: