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6/30/2018 » 7/2/2018
2017 ORPA Annual Conference

Special Conference Pre-session Interview
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We asked Lori A. Hoffner, presenter of the session "Creating a Suicide Safer Community", to sit down with us to talk about her background and the unique certification program she is offering at the ORPA Annual Conference.

ORPA: Tell us about the program and who should sign up for it.

LH: Parks and recreation are finding themselves in the health industry - in the area of prevention.  Not only physical health but mental health is improved by participating in what parks and recreation has to offer. Studies show that 62% of situational depression can be reduced through physical activity.  Parks and recreation folks see individuals of every age, every socio-economic status and research tells us that there is not one community that does not have an issue of suicide.

The whole idea behind this training is that anyone can be alert to someone with thoughts of suicide.  If I've got somebody coming into one of my centers who is struggling with depression, I want to be alert to that.  I want to know that not only am I providing services like parks and recreation do, but that I am alert to the possibility that this person could be struggling with thoughts of suicide and that I know ways to help them.

We used to talk about cancer under our breath and now we put it out there - we have races for breast cancer.  We talk about it!  We need to create a community that talks openly about suicide as well because that in turn creates a help-seeking environment for people who are struggling with it.

Everyone should feel comfortable talking about suicide.  It doesn't require a specialized degree in mental health.  Additionally, there is more and more research showing that young athletes are at higher and higher risk of suicide if they experience injury.  If you coach sports, this certification is applicable to you, as well.

The information in Creating a Suicide Safer Community is going to give people very tangible steps they can take if they are working with somebody with thoughts of suicide.  The three hour training (developed by Living Works) is research based and standardized and at the end you will be a certified Suicide Alert Helper. I can provide further training opportunities beyond this course so you can continue your education in helping to create suicide safer communities.

ORPA: What brought you to this work?

LH: The Columbine shootings happened in my backyard... that is the community that I had been working in as the director of a nonprofit.  And literally from the day of the shooting, the minutes following the shooting, I was involved.  For five years I worked with members of the community, with family members, with law enforcement, and with mental health.  
 The relationships I built were very serendipitous because Colorado was one of the first states to identify a state office of suicide prevention and began putting together different pilot projects.  I was asked to head the pilot project for Youth Suicide Prevention through our local mental health organization here in Jefferson County Colorado.  
 Youth issues have always been very important to me.  This issue [of suicide] is more broad than just youth, and since then I've been helping folks of all ages.

ORPA: What would you tell conference goers?

LH: I think the best thing about conferences is the opportunity to network with each other.  Parks and recreation is all about teaching people how to have fun.  Sometimes people get so caught up in the work of it, they forget to have fun themselves.  Conference allows people to let their hair down and have fun, as well as learn new ideas, take back some new stuff, look at what the are doing, hear from other colleagues about their successes and best practices.  Ninety percent of what you bring back from the conference helps you immediately - the other 10% you can use later on.  

ORPA: What does our conference theme, #Play2Win, mean to you?

LH: If we teach people in our communities that its okay to play, it is okay to have fun - we all win!  We reduce stress, we create a better environment, a better economy and a healthier community.

Creating a Suicide Safer Community is a special pre-session workshop offered on Monday, November 13th. Registration for this session is required as space is limited.  If you have already signed up for the conference and would like to add this session to your registration, please contact ORPA at 503.534.5673 or login to your account (members only) to update your registration.


Lori A. Hoffner has been offering training for positive youth development, community networking and organizational relationship building since 1997 and has spoken nationally regarding youth program development, employment and staff engagement as well as multiple community issues.  For 11 years, Lori was Executive Director of PACCT, a small non-profit in Jefferson County, Colorado, an organization dedicated to the success of youth and community.  Lori provides training to adults and youth surrounding the issue of suicide prevention and intervention and is an ASIST Certified Training and safeTALK Master Trainer.

Oregon Recreation & Park Association | PO Box #202, Lake Oswego OR 97034 | 503.534.5673
ORPA is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization