GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) – Police knew about the suicidal tendencies of nearly a third of the people who killed themselves in Mesa County in the first half of last year, according to a new study that found gaps in monitoring, counseling, drug treatment and other areas in the county where the suicide rate is double the state’s and triple the nation’s.

Some medical practitioners in the county still play down the problem, according to Kelli Kessell, director of continuing medical education at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, The Daily Sentinel reported Thursday.

“We have to work on changing that attitude,” she said at a public forum Wednesday on the study conducted by the Mesa County Health Department.

The county’s suicide rate of 34.3 per 100,000 is evidence that suicide is a significant threat to public health, the study’s authors concluded.

Researchers called for improvements in monitoring and tracking of suicidal people and in counseling in schools and the workplace in the rural, economically depressed county.

They found that student health services are limited and that across the county, primary care, emergency departments and public health workers lacked training in screening for and assessing depression, anxiety and other factors that can lead to suicide.

The number of deaths in Mesa County due to prescription drug overdose went from 13 in 2009 to 23 in 2012, according to the study. It called for the establishment in Mesa County of a 60 to 90 day alternative drug treatment program for young people and adults.

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