Washington County rolls out squad dedicated to suicide prevention

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Many people struggle with mental health issues and often feel there is no way out. Now, one Minnesota county has a new tool designed to give people hope.

Washington County has responded to more than 160 suicide-related calls since the beginning of 2018. 

So, Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry had an idea to put a new car on patrol. Painted purple and teal, the special car carries with a very important message.

“One thing led to another, and we ended up outfitting a squad car with suicide prevention colors, the teal and purple,” Sheriff Starry said.

Across Minnesota, 800 people take their lives every year, and for Washington County deputies, there have been 163 suicide-related calls just this year - each one different, each one unpredictable.

“You can imagine the range of emotions and the calls; the calls differ every call that you go on, so it can be someone that is just feeling depressed compared to someone that might be talking to someone about ideations of killing themselves or how they go about it to someone actually with a weapon,” Starry said.

“When we think about police, we think about crime. But, police are also about public safety and making sure people know what resources are available,” said Sue Abderholden with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The car carries suicide hotlines and a number you can text if you need help. It all seems so simple, and yet so powerful if it saves a life.

"I think it’s important – it’s one we’ve done a lot in Minnesota in terms of training of our first responders to know what to do. And I think this is just kind of that next step that says we’re going to make sure the community knows what resources are available,” Abderholden said.

Though the car has only been on the road a short time, it is generating some conversation - from the colors to the number on the side of the car - and generating conversation is exactly what it’s supposed to do.