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ASAP program to help combat suicide

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- "Not one more." That's how many suicides Col. Clint Crosier, 460th Space Wing commander, is willing to accept on Buckley Air Force Base: not one more.

During his May commander's call, Col. Clint Crosier, 460th Space Wing commander, reiterated this mantra and introduced a new program to combat suicide, the Augmented Suicide Awareness and Prevention program.

The ASAP program is based on the fact that "according to the mental health community, prior suicidal gestures or ideations are one of the leading indicators of future suicide attempts, especially when the member is experiencing long-term environmental factors such as relationship issues or financial stress, or later re-experiences similar triggering factors," according to a policy letter describing the program to commanders.

"Because of the high turnover through permanent changes of station and temporary duty assignments or deployments of commanders, operations officers and first sergeants, it is imperative that as leadership changes, new leaders are aware of the previous stress and anxiety in [members lives], so they too can remain as vigilant and prepared to respond as those leaders in place at the time of your previous difficulty," reads the brief provided to members placed on the program.

ASAP works by tracking members who attempt suicide and the circumstances surrounding the attempt, and passing along that information to incoming commanders, so if the member ends up in a similar situation, commanders can get the member the help they need.

During the commander's call, Colonel Crosier stressed that only actual suicide attempts would be tracked - members who thought about suicide and elected to instead seek help would not be tracked under this program.

"If a member calls the command post, gets connected to the on-duty Chaplain, for instance, and after talking to them, turns away from a suicidal path, that's where it ends," Colonel Crosier said. "The last thing we want to do is discourage people from seeking help."

The commander acknowledged concerns about member privacy, assuring members that each individual ASAP package would be reviewed for compliance with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and would be stored in a locked file cabinet, only accessible to the squadron commander, operations officer and first sergeant.

The most important part of the program, however, is commander support, Colonel Crosier said.

"The keys to preventing future suicides continue to be fostering a Wingman culture, knowing your Airmen and having the knowledge and courage to intervene when you notice a member in distress," the commander wrote in the policy letter. "We are all Wingmen, and as our creed says, 'we will never leave an Airman behind.' Please help me ensure 'not one more.' "
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