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About Us

Following the loss of several young lives to suicide in Washington County, MN in the Spring of 2010, a conversation was sparked between Dr. Shelly Strong, MD and Dr. Renee Penticoff, PsyD. Renee and Shelly felt deeply moved to connect other caring community members and organizations in collaboration to work towards decreasing the stigma of mental illness, educate the community, instill hope and work together to prevent suicide. SPC was founded by passionate community partners who combined their talents and worked diligently, including Renee Penticoff, PsyD, LP, Shelly Strong, MD, Robin McLeod, PhD, LP, Vanessa Schulte, MSW, LICSW, Megan Simon Olson, MSW, LICSW, Julie Kilpatrick, RN, Mike Huntley, MA, LP, Sara Fuerst, MA, LP, Sonja Tarrago, MD, Kate Flynn, Steve White, and Mary Glomb, MA, LP.  Over the years, SPC’s team has transitioned as some members have moved on and others have joined.


SPC is committed to increasing awareness about depression and other mental illnesses, the warning signs of suicide and the need for professional treatment. By educating the public about suicide, individuals at risk can be identified and treated, and the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide can be reduced.

The Suicide Prevention Collaborative (SPC) is a nonprofit organization that is made up of a group of professionals and community volunteers who are dedicated to preventing teen suicide in the eastern metropolitan area of the Twin Cities.

SPC will work to prevent suicide through:

  • education

  • awareness

  • collaboration

  • and advocacy

The SPCs main source of funding is the annual "Together It Gets Better" 5K run/walk which brings the community together for a fun, meaningful event that draws an average of two-hundred participants.  The monies raised by SPC are used in a variety of ways to both educate and support the community.   SPC has sponsored two community education events led by expert Dr. Dan Reidenberg of SAVE, two community education presentations by TED Talk comedian, author and mental health advocate, Kevin Breel.  SPC also sponsored professional and community education events by suicide prevention expert Maureen Underwood LICSW and self-injury expert Dr. Wendy Lader and Dr. Nimi Singh from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota.  In addition, SPC has provided free QPR (Question Persuade and Refer) Suicide Prevention Training to over five-hundred community members and has supported community requests for funds in support of youth resilience and mental health education.

The SPC and its community partners know that we need one another to prevent suicide and that "together it gets better."  The SPC is committed to continue connecting with caring individuals and organizations to spread hope through community education efforts, optimal use of resources and open conversations to decrease mental health stigma.  "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  Margaret Mead

SPC’s efforts are designed to:

  • Educate the public about the magnitude of suicide in our community.

  • Increase awareness of the need for identification and treatment of at-risk teens in order to prevent suicide.

  • Increase understanding of the symptoms of mental illness and the warning signs of suicide.

  • Increase awareness of area mental health resources and how to access them.

  • Collaborate with community partners to establish successful, integrated suicide prevention programs in the eastern metropolitan area of the Twin Cities.

We are a group of local professionals who came together after several teens in our area died by suicide. We are now working with members of the community to make change in order to prevent future suicides. Our team includes:

Tara Dahlager, MSW, LICSW, Family Frameworks

Elizabeth Fleming, Psy.D, Concurrency

Robyn Janssen, PsyD, LP, Ellie Family Services


Robin McLeod, PhD, LP, Natalis Counseling and Psychology Solutions

Renee Penticoff, PsyD, LP, Penticoff Community Counseling, Inc. 


Vanessa Schulte, MSW, LICSW, White Bear Lake Area Schools


Shelly Strong, MD, Central and Priority Pediatrics

Barb Vagnas, CPA

Monica Buenzow

SPC’s community collaborations have included the Youth Service Bureau, Dr. Carli Kody, PrairieCare, Washington County Public Health, Natalis Counseling and Psychology Solutions, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Stillwater Public Schools, Woodbury Community Church, Penticoff Community Counseling, Angelina's Kitchen, The Emily Program, SAVE, Central and Priority Pediatrics, Sentier Psychotherapy, Family Frameworks, Woodbury High School, East Ridge High School, SOS, Woodbury Thrives, Oakland Middle School, Make It Okay along with hundreds of volunteers.

Suicide Prevention Collaborative East Metro Area, Minnesota

SPC is officially a non-profit 501(c)(3.

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