What is the cost to expand the Walter Johnson Suicide Prevention program to other MCPS schools?

Question#: 48


The National Alliance for Mental Illness Montgomery County (NAMI MC) helps to sponsor several of the Sources of Strength suicide prevention programs that operate in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The program exists in eight MCPS schools including six high schools and two middle schools. This is the first year of operation at three schools—Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School, Gaithersburg Middle School, and Walter Johnson High School. The continuing schools are Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Winston Churchill, Springbrook, Walt Whitman, and Thomas S. Wootton high schools. The local nonprofit organization, UMatter, has provided support for funding to assist with the cost of implementation for the NAMI MC Sources of Strength program at some of the schools, as well as the Trawick Foundation grant which funds the program at Gaithersburg Middle School.

Sources of Strength is a universal suicide prevention program listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is described as, “a best practice youth suicide prevention project designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. The mission of Sources of Strength is to prevent suicide by increasing help-seeking behaviors and promoting connections between peers and caring adults. Sources of Strength moves beyond a singular focus on risk factors by utilizing an upstream approach for youth suicide prevention. This upstream model strengthens multiple sources of support (protective factors) around young individuals so that when times get hard they have strengths to rely on.”

Sources of Strength certified instructors train school-based staff members and a cohort of student leaders at each school to implement the program through a range of organized activities. The Sources of Strength program requires training from Sources of Strength certified instructor(s) during the first three years of implementation within a school. Ongoing support is needed to ensure fidelity of implementation.

If a Sources of Strength staff person is contracted to provide services during the first three years of implementation, the projected annual cost for each additional school to implement Sources of Strength totals $10,815 per year. Costs are detailed below:

  • $5,000/year—Training for additional school team and student leaders by a Sources of Strength certified instructor; and
  • $5,815/year—Substitutes required for approximately 20 school-based staff members per school to participate in two days of local training.

During the fourth year of implementation and beyond, the annual cost totals $3,410 for Sources of Strength to provide continuing support.

  • $500/year—Annual per school maintenance fee to pay for materials and support after year three; and
  • $2,910/year—Substitutes required for approximately 20 school-based staff members per school to participate in one day of annual training.

Alternatively, school districts have the option to train a dedicated staff member to serve as the district-level Sources of Strength trainer. Long term, there may be fiscal advantages to MCPS hiring an instructional specialist to implement Sources of Strength if additional schools want to implement Sources of Strength. In order to maintain fidelity and meet the standards of an evidence-based program, a 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) instructional specialist position should be considered. A half-time instructional specialist could support Sources of Strength in the eight current schools and in additional schools. This staffing approach would be consistent with the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports specialist model.

The projected annual cost to hire and train a 0.5 FTE instructional specialist and expand to one additional school totals $58,117. During school year (SY) 2016–2017, Sources of Strength would require the provisionally trained instructional specialist to train at least six groups in a 12-month period in order to gain experience and develop core skills. Costs for SY 2016–2017 are detailed below:

  • $5,000—Training for additional school team and student leaders by a Sources of Strength certified instructor during SY 2016-2017;
  • $40,802—Cost for a 0.5 FTE instructional specialist including salary and benefits;
  • $4,000—Training for a dedicated staff member to become certified to implement Sources of Strength;
  • $2,500—Required travel and lodging expenses for the instructional specialist to travel out of state to participate in Sources of Strength training of trainers sessions; and
  • $5,815—Substitutes required for approximately 20 school-based staff members per school to participate in local training two days per year.

After the instructional specialist completes Sources of Strength required training during SY 2016–2017, a $1,000 certification fee is required every two years for required follow-up observations of the trainer by Sources of Strength.