2023 Annual Report: Executive Director’s Letter: Great challenges bring great rewards in 2023

I don’t think I ever suspected how challenging and rewarding 2023 would be for Lost&Found.

Like many nonprofits in South Dakota and around the country, Lost&Found adapted to serve its community during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the years that followed. With a new understanding and appreciation for mental health needs and suicide risk in our state, new resources were granted, and new partnerships were formed to meet the still-rising needs of youth and young adults in our state. That, more than anything else, was reason to give any South Dakotan hope—that organizations like Lost&Found and many others were working together with new purpose for a common vision.

Despite sustained high demand for services and needs of young adults, Lost&Found found itself starting 2023 fighting not just for the lives of South Dakotans we served, but our own organization’s life. Several funding sources began to expire given their attachment to federal COVID-19 emergency declarations. At the same time, suicide continued to rise and remains the leading cause of death for South Dakotans under the age of 29. We could not wait for another federal grant cycle to arrive to save lives.

So we went back to our favorite phrase, “doing more to prevent suicide,” and we did more than we ever thought we could. We brought a bill to the South Dakota Legislature to fund youth and young adult suicide prevention. We doubled down on making peer mentorship accessible to college-aged students through a mobile application. We connected suicide loss survivors to resources and care at unprecedented levels. We tripled the number of people we served through community education. And we revised our approach once more—to make sure we’re meeting the challenge of suicide.

What was the result? A great reward for a great challenge.

The South Dakota Legislature passed a one-time funding bill, House Bill 1079, that provides $2 million for youth and young adult suicide prevention. As of this writing, Lost&Found has successfully piloted ReachU with student mentors at two universities in South Dakota, preparing for statewide implementation. We’ve created new resources for suicide loss survivors and are preparing to provide services to Medicaid recipients through our licensed Community Health Workers. Educational resources are abundantly available at Lost&Found, and there’s still more to celebrate—especially with a new strategic plan.

Whether Lost&Found is serving in South Dakota or in Southeast Asia—as we did in 2023—now is always the time to make suicide prevention a priority for our next generation. We were founded on the vision that no youth and young adult should ever die by suicide, and we stand by that commitment.

Until we’ve “done more”—done all we can—to make that world a reality, no challenge can stand in the way of this critical, life-saving work. And you make that possible.

Thank you for making life-saving work possible. Because of you, we can do more to prevent suicide.

In service,

Erik Muckey

Executive Director, Lost&Found


Read more in the 2023 annual report.

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