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Flowery Branch to host suicide intervention training as reports increase statewide
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With the suicide rate jumping 16 percent in Georgia between 1999 and 2016, Flowery Branch Police Chief David Spillers said he is looking to educate his officers on “crisis intervention training.”

“There’s a fairly high frequency of suicides in this region, and there are some anomalies that I’m hoping to get some answers for,” Spillers said.

Flowery Branch Police will host suicide intervention training Sept. 19 at Flowery Branch City Hall on Pine Street. Spillers contacted Armed Forces Mission founder Army Chaplain Lt. Col. Kenneth Koon to put on the training curriculum for his officers and other law enforcement willing to attend.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in June that the suicide rate in Georgia increased 16.2 percent between 1999 and 2016, with 45,000 people older than 10 dying by suicide nationwide in 2016.

One of the anomalies Spillers mentioned was Banks County, which has a low reported rate of suicides. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, there were two reported suicides in Banks County last year, with Georgia overall reporting 1,452 deaths by suicide.

In contrast, there were 11 deaths reported in Lumpkin County, six in Dawson County and 41 reported in Hall County, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Koon said he has “conducted more than 800 successful suicide interventions in both military and civilian communities,” with the model developed during his time in the Army.

The training is known as Listen Learn Lead, which Koon said will ultimately “give law enforcement the skills to be able to de-escalate in a better way.”

“(Listen Learn Lead) teaches that suicide is a preventable loss and that the clear majority of individuals at risk can be saved when a caring person is willing to intervene,” Koon said in a news release.

Spillers said the Georgia Chiefs Association issued a challenge for departments to reach 20 percent trained in “crisis intervention training.” The chief said his department as well as the other local departments — Gainesville Police, Oakwood Police and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office — are aiming for 100 percent of the department trained.

“I think we need to take a look and see if there’s anything we can do as law enforcement officers to try and prevent some of those needless deaths,” Spillers said.