Sister Sky Inc. Provides Suicide Prevention Training for Indian Health Service

Native American-owned Small Business Chosen to Provide Culturally Customized Suicide Prevention Training for 17,000 IHS Employees

Spokane, WA: Suicide is an urgent public health concern across the United States, but its severity for American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and for AI/AN young people, is unimaginably devastating. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in AI/AN populations for all ages (compared to tenth for all races), and the suicide rate for AI/AN adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 34 is 1.3 times higher than the national average. 

Indian Health Service (IHS), the federal agency charged with caring for the health of AI/AN people and often funding or directly operating health facilities on reservations, in tribal communities, and for urban Indians in metropolitan areas, is addressing this public health emergency, initiating a new requirement that every IHS employee receive training in suicide prevention annually. A total of 17,000 employees will be trained in the first year of the contract, following years employee totals increase. 

IHS chose Sister Sky Inc. (SSI) to design and administer their mandatory suicide prevention training. The effort will be led by SSI staff Dr. Denise Middlebrook (Crow Tribe), a leading national expert in AI/AN community behavioral health. Dr. Middlebrook and SSI staff are collaborating directly with the QPR Institute to create a new cultural adaptation of the QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Gatekeeper Training suitable for the wide diversity of Native American cultures, while maintaining QPR’s integrity as an evidence-based intervention. SSI will also offer QPR Train the Trainers, helping IHS build its internal behavioral health capacity across all twelve IHS regions. Suicide Prevention Training will be offered virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but onsite training led by SSI certified trainers is planned for the future. 

Sister Sky Inc. Founding Partner Marina TurningRobe comments, “Our native-led company highly acknowledges the IHS effort to address this heartbreaking public health crisis in our tribal communities.  The SSI team takes to heart the importance of this critical work requirement.  As in all our efforts, the SSI team will work hard each day on this initiative for IHS, likewise we continue standing-ready as Servant Warriors to Indian Country.

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Sister Sky Inc. is a 100% Native American woman-owned small business, an SBA-certified 8(a) and Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). SSI specializes in federal contracting initiatives that build education, health, and wellness in Indian Country.  Sister Sky Inc.’s founding partners, real-life sisters Monica Simeon and Marina TurningRobe, are citizens of the Spokane Tribe, WA and Pauquachin First Nation of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Learn more at sisterskyinc.com.  

Marina TurningRobe, marina@sisterskyinc.com 

Sister Sky Inc. Founding Partner