Steamboat organization hosts barbecue to raise money for programs |

Steamboat organization hosts barbecue to raise money for programs

Nicole Inglis

— Ronna Autrey isn't the only one who hopes this year is better than the last.

From the families of those lost to suicide to the first responders at each suicide attempt, no one wants to see a year like 2010, when Routt County's suicide rate hit a 10-year high, with 11 deaths and 95 documented attempts.

"That was devastating," said Autrey, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, a Yampa Valley-based nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about suicide.

And 2011 looks only slightly better thus far, with four suicides in the first seven months of the year.

This Saturday, the community will have the chance to support the organization and its cause during REPS' third annual Chicken Pickin' Barbecue fundraiser. The event is from 3 to 7 p.m. at Olympian Hall, where $10 buys a full-course meal of barbecue meat, corn and sides. Food will be provided by Steamboat Smokehouse.

The event also features a silent auction with everything from golf packages and art to bicycle clothing and balloon rides. There will be face painting for children and live music from Jesse Christensen from 5 to 7 p.m.

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"We want to it to be a fun family day, but by coming out and buying a dinner, they're supporting us so we can go present our programs," Autrey said.

REPS offers training in suicide prevention to Routt and Moffat counties in an effort to spare the community from suicide's effects, which can be deep and far-reaching in small towns.

Steamboat Mental Health program director John Fleeker said the mental health center has counselors on call 24/7 and fields calls at least once a week from people dealing with suicidal thoughts and attempts.

"We know that therapy does work," he said. "We know some combination of counseling, medications and community support can get someone through some really tough times."

He said the majority of people who seek help for issues like depression and anxiety will not attempt suicide a second time.

But Autrey and Fleeker know it takes resources to offer these services.

"Across the country, mental health funding has been cut and cut and cut," Autrey said. "I don't see any bright immediate future for that to turn around. It leaves a lot of people at a disadvantage.

"What we can do is get more educated," she said.

Mental health conference

In another effort to educate the community and raise awareness about mental health issues, REPS will join forces with several organizations for a daylong mental health conference Sept. 24 in Steamboat called "Yampa Valley Community Mental Health Conference: Building a Caring Community."

The event will be free for county residents and will feature breakout sessions and a keynote speaker on cyber-bullying.

The event is sponsored by Routt County United Way, REPS, Colorado West Regional Mental Health, the Yampa Valley Medical Center, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and the Jeffrey Allen Dye Suicide Prevention Project

"I think it gets some really good names into the community and shines a light on what … we're doing about mental health issues and suicide prevention," Fleeker said. "It's going to be good for anyone in the community."

Autrey said the event will present discussion on the multitude issues that affect the local community, from substance abuse to domestic violence.

"We want to raise that awareness bar and say here's all the different resources, and here's the problems our community has and here's what you can do if you're educated," Autrey said. "There's still ways to solve these problems."

A helping hand

If you’ve contemplated suicide or are dealing with depression, or if you know someone who is, call Ronna Autrey at 970-846-8182, or Routt County Communications at 970-879-1090.

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