Jerry and Elsie Weyrauch founded SPANUSA in Georgia in 1996 after the loss of their 38 year old physician daughter Terri Ann by suicide. Their work took on a national focus from the beginning, drawing interest from leaders across the nation. In 1998, the members of SPANUSA brought stakeholders together to the Reno Conference to begin a dialogue on the crisis of suicide in our nation.
Out of this conference, then Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher wrote the Call to Action for Suicide Prevention, declaring suicide a public health crisis in America.
A National Strategy for Suicide Prevention was published in 2001; during that same period of time SPAN led the effort to write our Georgia Suicide Prevention Plan. It was a natural progression for SPANUSA to move to Washington DC, and at that time, 2002, SPAN-GA was formed to focus on the needs of our state. In the early years, SPAN-GA was given funding through a line item each year to implement suicide prevention activities throughout the state.
Since then, we have advocated for an official Office of Suicide Prevention, and legislature brought the Suicide Prevention Program into existence in 2006. From that time, SPAN-GA and many other agencies and organizations have been working together with the Suicide Prevention Program to execute the activities and coordinated efforts for suicide prevention, intervention and aftercare throughout Georgia. Under the leadership of the Division of Public Health 2006 – 2009 and then the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) from 2009 - 2015, and now under the Office of Behavioral Prevention where the Suicide Prevention Program has found a perfect fit, we have made great strides toward impacting a very complicated crisis, but we still have much work to do.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed
citizens can change the world: indeed, it's the only
thing that ever has!