“Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Campus Suicide Prevention” Program for Grant Writers

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the overarching funding body for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and SAMHSA is in turn seeking applications for the “Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Campus Suicide Prevention” Program; the first Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) was issued on Feb. 28. Although the preceding sentence may be filled with intimidating acronyms, particularly to college staff unused to SAMHSA jargon, the basic idea is simple: colleges and universities can submit applications for a wide array of suicide-prevention-related mental health activities. Many colleges and universities are probably already contemplating or attempting to implement such programs; now they have an easier way to use other people’s money (OPM) to pay for such programs. For the GLS program, there are ten required activities and five additional allowable activities. A grant writer should look at the ten required activities and then look at the $102,000 per year available to grantees, and that grant writer should then realize that not all of the activities are going to get equal weight.

Lessons for grant writers

We’ve seen issues like this in other programs related to higher education, colleges, and universities; for example, federal Department of Education TRIO grants come in a variety of flavors (which we’ve written about before), some meant for for a very high level of careful services for a smaller number of students, and some meant to serve a larger number of students with fewer and less complex services. GLS, based on the many required activities and smaller amount of available funding, looks like a program meant to serve more students with fewer services. Experienced grant writers should be able to read between the lines of the NOFO and understand what SAMHSA really wants. Inexperienced grant writers may panic, wondering how so many activities can be meaningfully conducted with $102,000 per year. The likely answer is simple: not all activities will receive equal consideration in the real world after the grant is awarded. College and universities should prioritize allowable activities with what they see as most important to their students.

SAMHSA also uses the word “evidence” eight times in this 2022 NOFO, but it doesn’t tell applicants which evidence-based programs (EBPs) to use. Some SAMHSA NOFOs will offer instruction and links about preferred EBPs, and some will leave the EBPs up to applicants. The downside of colleges and universities having to choose their own EBPs is that no one knows what SAMHSA thinks should count as an EBP. The upside, however, is that colleges and universities, or their grant writers, can choose whatever EBPs they like. We have a lot of experience in choosing EBPs based on limited input from our clients; being able to function in an information-poor environment is a key skill for grant writers. For example, in 2022 we had a conference call with a several administrators at a community college in California, who were worried about being able to articulate their “vision” for a large federal grant program. We told them that we’d take care of the vision part; they only had to be able to speak to the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the proposed project. And if there were any aspects of the program they didn’t know how to deal with, we’d deal with those aspects.

A important aspect of grant writing is the grant writer’s imagination. We’ll supply as much of it as may be demanded; call us at 800.540.8906, ext. 1, or email us at seliger@seliger.com for a fast, free fee quote on the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Campus Suicide Prevention Program, and we’ll bring the imagination, including selecting EBPs, as necessary. The goal is to create a “fill in the blanks” exercise. Many college and university administrators face more tasks than there are hours in the day, and that’s what we can help with. GLS has a 74 page NOFO, and most university officials aren’t familiar with the SAMHSA grant process. We are, and can make the application process easy. The 2022 deadline is April 29, and that leaves little time for developing a complete application. Page 41, for example, lists complex eRA validations. What’s that mean? We’re able to help, and to make sure college and university staff have time to make sure that college staff are ready to help students and faculty, not chase confusing grant proposals. We’ll write your entire proposal or edit your draft for a reasonable flat fee.