0 in 5: Our Suicide Goal

sunset-flag-america-fieldsMany of us have seen on Facebook  the #22PushupChallenge to honor the 22 deaths by suicide within our veteran population a day.  And you may or may not know that suicide continues to be identified as a one of the leading causes of death in the US across all age groups, gender, and race and is now ranked 2nd as a leading cause of death for individuals aged 15-44 .   Unfortunately, Indiana exceeds the national average in deaths by suicide per 100k people and Madison County, where we are the largest behavioral health service provider, has an even higher rate of deaths by suicide per 100k residents compared to the state and national averages. We’re right in the middle of the “hot zone” and at Aspire, we have seen an alarming increase over the last few years of deaths by suicide for the people we serve.

Our response? Enough is enough. That is why one of Aspire’s 4 Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) is 0 after 5. This means we want zero suicides after five years among those we serve. In an agency where we do behavioral health treatment every day with people contemplating suicide, the idea of zero seems more than lofty, it seems impossible.

So, in a state and community where people are killing themselves at a higher rate than the rest of the country, why make such an outlandish goal to eliminate suicide?  Simple, Aspire is articulating the approach that we, as individuals, want for ourselves, our families, our friends and our communities.  No one who works here wants to lose anyone we know through suicide.  And, since we work in an industry designed to treat this problem, we intend to put forth every effort we can imagine to end it and quickly. In order to meet it, it will require our organization, teams, and employees working together with everyone we serve to achieve it.

Fortunately, we are not alone.  I have been amazed at the successes being made within organizations who have taken on a Zero Suicide Initiative.  Sometime around 2008, while attending the annual conference of the National Council for Community Behavioral Health, I became aware of the initiatives at large healthcare organizations to dramatically reduce or eliminate suicide as a cause of death for their service recipients. Large providers like the Henry Ford Health System, in Detroit Michigan, provided dramatic data on the decline in suicides by improving the identification, engagement, quality of their care, and improved transition planning for those with suicidal thoughts or plans.  In the years that follow, I have seen similar results from places like Kaiser-Permanente, Johns Hopkins, and others large healthcare programs. More recently, within Indiana, other healthcare entities have adopted the Zero Suicide approach in an effort to eliminate suicides within their communities.  Community Health Network and Centerstone have formally launched these efforts, and are inviting others to join.  Aspire will be learning from its peers in order to utilize effective practices and to share our successes with others. While our goal is to eliminate suicide from those we serve, it should be everyone’s goal to eliminate suicide in their circle of influence and we want to play our part in creating synergy and progress towards that goal on a community level.

The gauntlet has been thrown down; the banner has been raised. Zero suicides after five years. In order to reach this goal, Aspire has created a 5 part plan:

  1. Train employees
  2. Supply clinical decision support tools
  3. Engage those at risk
  4. Implement care protocols that will provide the greatest safety
  5. Use data to improve the effectiveness of these over time

Work has already begun on these parts, and in future postings I will share more details about each and the progress being made to reach our zero suicide goal.


Center for Disease Control. “FastStats – Leading Causes of Death.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Apr. 2016. Web.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. “Zero Suicide.” Zero Suicide. Education Development Center, 2015. Web.

World Life Expectancy. USA Life Expectancy. World Life Expectancy, 6 Jan. 2016. Web.



ProfileAbout the Author: Jim Skeel is the Senior Director, Performance and Outcomes of Aspire Indiana. Learn more about Aspire on our website, or on Facebook.

Posted in Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Uncategorized, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Medal Winning” Videos of Homelessness

With the Olympics wrapping up yesterday, our minds have been saturated over the last two weeks with the images of bronze, silver, and gold. These colors have taken on great symbolism as the brand of remarkable achievement. In this spirit of this time honored ranking system, Jerry Landers (Executive Director of Aspire Indiana Health, and Vice President, Chief Development Office for Aspire Indiana) and I have taken it upon ourselves to award the bronze, silver, and gold medals to 3 movies for their excellent depictions of homelessness in the United States.


Time out of Mind

Richard Gere (George) plays the lead in the movie “Time Out of Mind”, which depicts George’s existence as a homeless man on the streets of New York City, struggling with his identity
Unlike the two movies to follow, Director Oren Moverman’s focus of the film was not on the circumstances that led to George becoming homeless. Instead, the film takes an observer’s perspective, narratively and visually. What we do learn of Gere’s character is that he has suffered tremendous loss and in the process lost his sense of purpose and identity. We see George use alcohol as a coping mechanism, manipulate others, suffer the harsh rejection of almost all other characters in the film, and struggle through a dysfunctional shelter and social services system as he tries to get by each day. The power in this film is in what isn’t said, in the unknown. Too often there is the temptation to jump to conclusions about those who are homeless. Viewers of “Time out of Mind”, if they have the patience, will gain new insight and appreciation for all that can be happening “below the surface” in this unique population.


Pursuit of Happyness

“The Pursuit of Happyness” is based on Chris Gardner’s true story as a struggling parent being homeless and raising a young son during the early 1980s. Directed by Gabriele Muccino, the film stars Will Smith as Gardner and Smith’s son, Jaden Smith.
“The Pursuit of Happyness” plays an important role in highlighting the misconception that all individuals who are homeless are just lazy. The truth is that nearly 40% of all homeless persons have a job, and when surveyed, the majority of those without employment say they are willing and want to work. “The Pursuit of Happyness” demonstrates how quickly anyone’s circumstances can change, and how challenging the process can be to re-establish stability while homeless. There is inspiration to be found in this story, but viewers should be careful to check their “rose colored glasses” at the door, as Gardner’s intellectual talents and people skills gave him the opportunity for a way out not accessible to most who find themselves in similar situations.


The Soloist Based on the book by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, “The Soloist” is the story of an unlikely friendship between an LA reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) and a homeless musician dealing with a serious mental illness ( Jamie Foxx).
“The Soloist” made our top 3 videos list for multiple reasons. The first is that it powerfully depicts the link between mental illness and homelessness. With a masterful performance by Foxx, the audience is able to glimpse into the world of someone struggling with mental illness and how what seem like simple solutions are extremely complex. On the other side, Downey’s performance as a LA Times columnist reflects what many individuals, both in the mental health field and outside it, feel when confronted with mental illness: frustration, disappointment, and the temptation to look down on those with mental illness. However, Downey’s character, Lopez, has the redeeming quality of passionately and persistently believing in Ayers’ (Foxx) potential and intrinsic value. The ability of this film to realistically portray both sides of homelessness in a way that resonates, convicts, and elicits empathy from viewers is what gives “The Soloist” the gold.

So what do you think? Do you agree/disagree with our rankings or did we leave out a deserving film entirely? We want to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comment section below! For those who may not have seen these films, we encourage you to do so and then come back and share your thoughts.

If you know of someone who is struggling with housing, we encourage you to learn more about the housing programs (linked below) available through Aspire and share it with them. We have a 24 Hour crisis line available with caring folks standing by ready to help serve those in need.
Housing Services – Aspire


About the Author: Kevin Sheward, MBA, is a grant writer with Aspire Indiana. Learn more about Aspire Indiana on Facebook or through our website.

Posted in Addiction, Health, Homelessness, Housing, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Housing, an Important part of HEALTH!

diabetes-blood-sugar-diabetic-medicine-46173When we talk about health, we often take our homes for granted. If you were to walk out of a doctor’s office with a prescription for insulin or orders to lower your stress by getting more sleep, how would you do that without a home? Where would you refrigerate insulin while taking shelter under an overpass? How would you get a restful night’s sleep in a noisy and crowded shelter with 50+ other men/women? These are just two examples of how, without a home, health is an uphill battle. Because of this simple truth, Housing is a significant social determinant for health.

The Social Determinants of Health are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. The conditions in which we live explain in part why some Americans are healthier than others and why many Americans are not as healthy as they could be.

cold-snow-person-winterSadly, roughly 500,000 people were homeless in the US last year. More than a quarter of them were children. According to HUD’s 2015 point in time count, 565,000 people were living on the streets in cars, in homeless shelters or in subsidized transitional housing during their one-night national survey. Nearly one-fourth were aged 18 or under. Many studies suggest that the real number is much higher.

This is why Aspire has such a strong focus on housing. By working to establish practices that positively influence social and economic conditions and those that support changes in individual behavior, we CAN improve the health of people in ways that can be sustained over time.

Aspire provides property management services and various housing assistance programs to the many counties we serve, which include Madison, Hamilton, Boone, Hendricks, Hancock, and Marion. Annually we work with hundreds of individuals that are living on the street. We access a variety of federal, state and local resources to help individuals gain housing. Once they are housed we continue to provide supportive services including working with our supportive employment team to address issues with unemployment or underemployment.

If you would like to learn more about our Housing services please check us out on the web http://www.aspireindiana.org/housing/ or follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AspireAffordableHousing/


Johnson, E. (2015). More than 500,000 people homeless in the United States: report. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-homelessness-idUSKCN0T908720151120

HealthyPeople.gov (2016). Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators: Progress Update.  Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/leading-health-indicators/Healthy-People-2020-Leading-Health-Indicators%3A-Progress-Update
CDC.gov (2016). Social Determinants of Health: Know What Affects Health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/


Jerry_LandersAbout the Author: Jerry Landers is the Executive Director of Aspire Indiana Health. You can follow him on Twitter @JerryELanders. Learn more about Aspire on our website, or on Facebook.

Posted in Health, Homelessness, Housing, Integrated Healthcare, Mental Health, Primary Care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Big Lens Video Contest

Sometimes a fresh perspective is needed to find insight, solve a long standing problem, or to rejuvenate the mind. Here at Aspire we work hard to tell our story in ways that are relevant to you and through mediums that are easily accessible. With an ever expanding network of employees, consumers, and interested community members, we have the challenging and exciting task of making sure our new friends have the opportunity to learn about the myriad of services we offer, and those who have been with us for a long time have compelling reasons to stay engaged through our social platforms.

Enter… The Big Lens Video Contest! 


The Big Lens Video Contest is for you (18+): our employees and families, friends, consumers, community stakeholders, anyone interested in film and Aspire, all those up for a little competition, and anyone who just wants a chance at a $2,500 grand prize!

Yes, a $2,500 grand prize! 

Here’s how to participate:

Create a video that tells a positive story about Aspire. It could be about the work that we do, the services we provide, a personal story of impact, etc. You can try and cover the whole spectrum of Aspire or focus on any aspect you choose. But remember, the videos have to be between 90-120 seconds.

The deadline for video submissions is March 31st, 2017. Videos that meet the criteria will be posted on Youtube, and the video with the most views at the end of the viewing period will receive the grand prize of $2,500!

We hope that with YOUR creativity and talents we will be able to take a step back and see Aspire from a new perspective,  through a bigger lens.

If you are interested in participating in “The Big Lens” video contest, check out the video along with the full rules and entry form linked below. If this isn’t for you, would you help us out by sharing it with someone who may be? We’d really appreciate it!

“The Big Lens” video contest rules and entry form


Posted in Integrated Healthcare, Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized, Workplace Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“As Seen On TV”

When I think of outlandish claims, the phrase “As seen on TV” instantly comes to mind. Whether it’s indestructible hoses, pajama jeans, sauna pants or anything else “As seen on TV”, they claim to be the latest and greatest items you couldn’t live without. The loud and flashy commercials, unsettlingly happy actors, and promises of incredible value lure you in. In your mind you’re thinking, “I know it can’t be as good as promised…can it?” We’ve all fallen prey to these sales pitches at some point in our lives, only to be disappointed when reality fails to live up to expectations.

As I reflected on my first 120 days, I jotted down a list of words I felt described my time with Aspire, along with a list of meaningful events. What I discovered was quite intriguing. The words I was choosing aligned perfectly with the Aspire Values that Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Barb Scott has been writing about over the last several months.

In my first 120 days, I have seen an organization that believes passionately in the potential of its PEOPLE, both its employees and the individuals we serve. I have seen this through the stories of folks being promoted through the organization, through the interest others have shown in my personal development, encouragement, and the belief that recovery is possible for our clients. 

In my first 120 days, I have seen my coworkers display countless acts of INTEGRITY through hard work, honesty, vulnerability, and dedication. The culture here has been to do things well, and to do it the right way, with character and integrity.

In my first 120 days, I have experienced so much LAUGHTER! The friendly banter, seeing my coworkers dressed up for May Day, hilarious pranks, and a relaxed atmosphere has made laughter abundant.

In my first 120 days, I have been immersed in LEARNING. Aspire has so many moving parts and is impacting lives through so many different ways. As a grant writer, I have the privilege of learning about all of these moving pieces and have the joy of sharing their successes with others. This isn’t just a first 120 day experience. Through Director of Training, Clinical Supervision & Outcomes Mike Gray’s training sessions, professional conferences, webinars, and collaborative teams, Aspire employees are always learning.

In my first 120 days, I have felt the weight of ACCOUNTABILITY. Those we serve deserve our best. At Aspire, we are all responsible for the success of our organization. It is a fast paced environment with lots of challenges to overcome. We are all yoked together in this work. Personal accountability is important, but just as important is the teamwork I have seen that helps everyone be successful.  

In my first 120 days, I have seen an organization that values RELATIONSHIPS. Birthday cards, celebratory parties, pitch-ins for sick and hurting employees, and lunches with coworkers are just a few of the ways I have seen Aspire employees live out the Value of Relationships and serve one another in love.

When I came to Aspire 120 days ago, I had heard some “As seen on TV” quality claims. What I have discovered in my short time here is that we truly are “Together…making health and well-being a reality!” The values Aspire upholds as essential to our organization have tangible manifestations in the workplace and actively inform and direct they way we conduct our work. Aspire has been everything I had hoped for and more; there is no “buyer’s remorse”!
When I chose to come to Aspire I was looking for a place that was making a difference in the community and where I could make have a meaningful impact. At Aspire I have found both.

About the Author: Kevin Sheward, MBA, is a grant writer with Aspire Indiana. Learn more about Aspire Indiana on Facebook or at its website.


Posted in Employment, Health, Integrated Healthcare, Uncategorized, Workplace Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blogging for Health: Expanded Services and Feedback

Happy spring to you all! Things have been very busy at Aspire Indiana Health since I last wrote this blog. We have expanded services that include hours at our Carmel and Willowbrook locations. For those of you familiar with Aspire Behavioral Health programs-  primary care is located within the Aspire Behavioral Health office sites. Educational offerings have also been added that include diet/My Plate instruction, smoking cessation and lung volume testing. As we strive to make your healthcare experience a “one stop shop”, we will continue to expand and improve services.

One way to improve services is to listen to feedback. When you come to Aspire Indiana Health for an office visit- we want to know what you think. In providing health care services, we  have a strong commitment to our consumers to make their experience meaningful, educational and timely. When those goals fall short, we need to hear about it.  When you come to Aspire Indiana Health, we have the opportunity to share with you how you can improve your health. We want your opinion about how we can improve as well.

So when you visit one the the four Aspire Indiana Health offices, please tell us what you think. We have made recent changes to the survey that includes a place for your comments. We have made it available on the IPad in the exam room for your convenience, but still keeping it anonymous for your privacy. You can even reach out to me directly at the below email address for any comments, questions, or concerns.  

Aspire’s New Health Centers

Call today for an appointment at 765-393-3891 or 1-877-574-1254
We’re located at 215 West 19th Street, Anderson, IN
10731 SR 13,  Elwood,  IN
697 Pro-Med Lane, Carmel, IN
2506 Willowbrook Parkway, Suite 300, Indianapolis, IN

For more information go to our website at http://www.aspireindiana.org/primarycare.htm

To Good Health,


Syd Ehmke, FNPEhmke Sydney 2015

COO, Aspire Indiana Health

Posted in Integrated Healthcare, Primary Care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Oops in the Workplace!

I’m eager to be sharing the 4th of 7 blogs that have set out to cover Aspire’s 7 core values having already covered People, Relationships, and Laughter.  This post is a story that helps to demonstrate Aspire’s value of Learning.  As a young COO nearly 20 years ago, I was negotiating a partnership with St. Vincent’s Anderson Regional Hospital.  The hospital specialized in psychiatric inpatient services and Aspire specialized in outpatient services.  We each had aspects in common but we also had our separate specialties.  The gap in the middle between hospital discharge and outpatient services was a weak component of our combined efforts. We came together and strategized, negotiated, and developed a partnership that combined our services and allowed for a clinical and financial win for both of us.  Or so it seemed….

It was only after operations were in place and costs had been incurred that it all came crashing to a halt.  We each had made some initial assumptions that were dead WRONG!  It was as simple as this:  we didn’t bother to define the words we were using!  Turns out they were looking for a brief intensive service that would last 2-3 days.  We were looking for a 3-4 week intensive outpatient program – a bit of a clinical and financial difference!

This cost Aspire about $20,000 and it was 100% my fault!  It was at this moment that I became acutely aware of our value of Learning.  I wasn’t penalized, shamed or made to feel like a failure.  Rich DeHaven allowed an inexperienced COO to learn from her mistake.  To this day, I diligently check out my assumptions and seek to understand potential partners’ definitions and terms.

William McKnight, one of 3M’s former Presidents, stated it well, “Managing such an enterprise takes considerable tolerance…the mistakes employees make… aren’t as serious as mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.”1

I am grateful to work for an organization that values growth and learning, resulting in empowerment of staff  We believe individuals and organizations engaged in learning become better, stronger and wiser when we challenge old paradigms with critical thinking, curiosity and creativity.  Aspire is a place to learn and grow.  Mistakes are as important as successes!  Just recently,  I was part of negotiating a project with one of our Medicaid payers worth $100,000 annually for the next three years!  I think I’m getting better!

1 Evelyn Clark, “Around the Corporate Campfire:  How Great Leaders Use Stories to Inspire Success,” 2004.

bios_scottAbout the Author: Barbara Scott is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Aspire Indiana. Learn more about Aspire Indiana on Facebook or at its website.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments