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Episcopal Foundation supports poverty alleviation, suicide prevention amid energy downturn

Nov 11, 2016 By Kate Corbin

Episcopal Foundation supporting poverty alleviation,

suicide prevention amid energy downturn in Wyoming

Wyoming's recent budget cuts are having an effect on the residents of the state, particularly those who rely on state funded health programs and services.

The budget cuts are due to a downturn in the energy industry.

The Department of Health director, Tom Forslund, said in an article recently that programs that help people with issues such as substance abuse and suicide are being largely affected by the budget cuts.

The state of Wyoming is ranked fourth in the nation for suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and suicide is the sixth leading cause of death overall in Wyoming.

Because of these numbers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider suicide a public health problem.

Poverty is also considered a health problem.

More than 11 percent of the overall population of Wyoming is living in poverty according to a 2016 project by the Center for American Progress. This ranks Wyoming 10th highest in the nation for the amount of its overall population living in poverty.

Being faced with this information caused me to wonder, "What exactly does 'poverty' mean?"

In order to conduct research and develop statistical data, the United States Census Bureau "uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty. If a family's total income is less than the family's threshold, then that family and every individual in it is considered in poverty."

The threshold is calculated at three times the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963, updated annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index.

But poverty looks much different to those living in it, and the data only addresses part of the problem.

To those living under the poverty line, every day questions whether they will be able to make it through knowing they may have to go without the bare necessities.

The Borgen Project is a non-profit group that works to address and alleviate extreme poverty around the world. Their website, borgenproject.org, lists five main effects of poverty on those living in it: malnutrition, health, education, economy and society.

Any given day creates any number of concerns for those in poverty, but for those with means to provide aide, it is imperative to understand more than just the data. Poverty is about the individual needs of people in our communities, often family, friends, and co-workers.

The Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming and the Foundation for the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming are working to address these problems in the communities of our state. The Foundation for the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming recently gave $5,000 to each of its 48 parishes so they can address poverty in their areas. This has allowed smaller communities across the state to attend to needs specific to their own circumstances. Because poverty doesn't look the same for all people or geographical areas, the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming and its Foundation recognized the importance of allowing the churches discretion in how they support those in need.

Episcopal parishes in Wyoming are doing much more themselves, often, also, with support from the Foundation. In addition to food banks and thrift stores, there are four "help centers" in Wyoming that offer support to those living in poverty in many ways not addressed by other means. One of the help centers, located in Thermopolis, recently won the George B. Storer Outstanding Mission Award from the Foundation for their work in helping people in poverty.

The focus of the Common Ground Help Center in Thermopolis is to provide a place where people in need can come as an initial action towards getting help. Common Ground, and other help centers like it, give out information and help families assess their individual needs and point them in the directions they need to go to further improve their situations. The Common Ground Help Center is a safe place for people to come and discuss their options and ask questions without pressure or judgment.

More information about the help centers supported by the Foundation can be found at the Foundation's website, www.efwy.org, under "Prayers Answered."

With the urging of the Rt. Rev. John Smylie, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming, Wyoming Episcopalians are working diligently to address the rampant problem of suicide in Wyoming. A task force was created to spearhead the work, which has included research to understand the issue, providing training to prevent suicide, and supporting those who are affected by suicide. This task force has become the Episcopal Suicide Prevention Connection.

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Gillette was awarded a grant from the Foundation in 2015 to support their work with aiding survivors of suicide. Holy Trinity, in partnership with the Campbell County Suicide Prevention Coalition, provides what they refer to as "post-vention." Post-vention includes services such as trauma clean up and community response planning.

Other individual parishes around the diocese have done other things to help with the cause. St. John's Episcopal Church in Jackson received funding from the Foundation to produce videos created by Jackson students to raise awareness of the issue of suicide among younger people.

Another major aspect of the fight against suicide is spreading the message that the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming does not condemn those who die by suicide, but rather offers hope and acceptance to those impacted by the tragedy. As with most suicide prevention training, the message includes the encouragement of discussing the issue openly and being upfront with the issue. Resources concerning suicide prevention and support for survivors are available at www.diowy.org.

Members of the Episcopal Diocese recently raised $1,963 for suicide prevention during their annual convention, and the Foundation for the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming is matching that amount for a total of $3,926. The Episcopal Diocese has also established an AmazonSmile account where people can do their usual Amazon shopping with the added bonus that Amazon will donate .05% of qualified purchases to the Diocese, which is used for suicide prevention and support. The Foundation has also granted funds to the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming to further help with eradicating this devastating problem, notably a grant directed to the Albany County Suicide Prevention Task Force to bring "Sources of Strength" to Laramie schools and UW.

Helping to alleviate these struggles is a focus of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming and its Foundation. Please visit their websites from more information about how you can help or if you need or know someone in need.

For more information about resources available to those living in poverty, please call 2-1-1, an easy to remember telephone number that connects callers, at no cost, to information about critical health and human services available in communities around Wyoming. By dialing 2-1-1 callers can find information and receive referrals on rent and utility assistance, mental health resources, food banks and pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, clothing and household goods, health clinics, youth programs, legal assistance, job training and assistance, senior services and more.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The more people know about the epidemic of suicide, the better we can help those suffering. For educational and training information, please go to diowy.org and click on "Suicide Prevention."

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