Americans are used to dialing 911 for emergencies. Thanks to the new National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, they will be able to dial 988 to reach a suicide prevention hotline beginning on July 16, 2022. This resource is crucial in Idaho, a state that ranked fifth in the nation for suicide deaths in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Local calls will continue to go to the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline. The nonprofit organization has provided free, confidential mental health crisis intervention for Idahoans since 2012. Hotline Director Lee Flinn, a graduate of Boise State’s Executive MBA program, is planning for a steep increase in calls once 988 is up and running.
“We are building capacity in a way we’ve never done before,” Flinn said.
To meet the challenge, Flinn partnered with students from Boise State University’s College of Business and Economics. A team of four Executive MBA students worked with the nonprofit as a part of their capstone project, a requirement to complete their degrees.
The Boise State team got to work early in 2021.
“We first helped the organization say ‘Okay, how big is the problem?’” said Angie Elliot, an Executive MBA graduate (2021) from Meridian and the team lead.
The students projected that the hotline’s call volume will triple in 2022. They spent five months analyzing the hotline’s operations, comparing its financial situation to other suicide prevention hotlines, and seeking new funding opportunities.
The team’s innovative ideas included “call-back” contracts. Following the team’s direction, the hotline began contracting with several local mental health providers to call recently discharged mental health patients for check-ins. The practice saves providers’ time, creates a new stream of revenue for the hotline, and provides another point of connection for patients.
The Boise State team, Flinn said, had a powerful impact on the hotline and the community it serves.
“Through the capstone project, the Boise State Executive MBA program is helping us better serve people from every Idaho county. The business of the hotline is to support Idahoans who are in crisis or feeling suicidal. Strengthening business processes is more than operational improvements – the real impact is in people’s lives.”
At the end of 2021, the hotline featured the Boise State team in its annual report, crediting it with the development of a new strategic growth plan.
Capstones, a benefit for all
Capstone projects in the College of Business and Economics “provide organizational leaders with an outside perspective on their strategic questions from smart Executive MBA students and provide students with the opportunity to wrestle with an important problem that is outside their normal business fields,” said Nancy Napier, a Distinguished Professor Emerita at Boise State who coaches students in the Executive MBA program.
Students partner with organizations at no cost to the organizations.
“Having a real-world problem to work on makes it more than an assignment. It makes it messy,” Elliot said. “The problems you’re going to face in the real world are messy.”
The benefits of the program have also extended beyond the classroom for Flinn.
“The connections I made during my time in the program were instrumental in the partnership between Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline and Boise State University,” she said.
Alum Angie Elliot
Angie Elliot had a long career at Hewlett-Packard and wanted to expand her business skills beyond what she had learned and experienced in the workplace. Several of her colleagues had completed Boise State’s Executive MBA program and had spoken highly of it.
“I knew it would give me more exposure to business models beyond just high tech and would also grow my professional network within the Boise community. All of which I put high value on,” Elliot said. “I’ve learned over my career that my professional network is just as important as my professional experience.”
Before graduating from the Boise State program in 2021, Elliot transitioned to a senior program management position at Amazon in Seattle, working remotely from Boise. Within a year, she became a manager of program managers in the Amazon Devices Beta organization.
“The Boise State program accelerated my career and I look forward to continuing to move up within the management team at Amazon,” she said.