October 25, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
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Special session scheduled to discuss high child suicide rate

The Medina County Health Department is convening a special meeting in February to discuss child suicides in the county over the past three years.

County Health Commissioner Krista Wasowski said the county will hold a special meeting of the child fatality review commission to discuss suicide deaths in the county since 2010.

Krista Wasowski

Krista Wasowski

Wasowski said the decision to host the meeting came earlier this month — before the deaths of two Brunswick High School students that police are investigating as suicides.

“We decided we wanted to go back and look to see if there was any commonality between these deaths,” she said. “We had already decided to look at it before the deaths in Brunswick.”

Wasowski told a group of public officials about plans to host the meeting during a discussion on the youth suicide rate in the county during a roundtable discussion with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, on Wednesday afternoon.

Brown said he wanted to learn about issues facing the community and how cuts to federal programs have had an impact at the local level.

Matthew Homyk, a Brunswick freshman, died Jan. 10, police said. Three days later, Anthony Gill, a senior at the high school, was found dead in a backyard in Brunswick.

Police said the cause of death was hanging. If the deaths are ruled suicides, they would be the fifth and sixth juvenile suicides in the county in a little more than two years.

Seth Kujat, executive director of United Way of Medina County, said he was working with other county agencies to host a youth forum Feb. 18 and 19 to try to better engage youths in Medina County. He said a needs assessment completed by United Way showed one of the greatest needs in the county is for more youth engagement.

In speaking with Brown during the forum, Kujat also said state and federal budget cuts to schools have cut money for counselors and mental health professionals.

“All the money for that has been cut,” Kujat said.

Wasowski said schools are doing their best to get mental health professionals to see students with needs, but often, one staff member splits his time between a number of districts.

“They’re doing the best they can with what they have,” she said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.