Meet Suicide Prevention’s new leader

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After 30 years of teaching and administration, including at New Roots charter school, Tim Turecek knew he was at his best and most fulfilled when he was helping others. He was later drawn to intervention work, eventually gaining a reputation for his excellent skills. When his education career ended, he trained on the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service’s (SPCS) crisis line and spent over two years on the board.

“I think we’re born this way,” Turecek said. “The work that we do here somehow fits with the work that’s always been important in my life, what I value and what I’ve devoted myself to.”

Turecek was recently chosen to be the new SPCS executive director, making him only the second person to hold the position. He said it was an honor to be chosen, and he suits the role well.

“I have the ability and experience with people who are experiencing pretty intense and difficult times in their life and have been pretty useful,” Turecek said. “It’s rewarding because you’re genuinely helpful. And combining that with my administrative skills, I just felt like this is work that is really meaningful and that I’m pretty good at.”

SPCS’s dedication to support those in the community that are struggling the most attracted Turecek to this role, he said. He connected with the mission of preventing violence to self and others through support and education, he said, after his own experience with interacting with people who needed his help.

“We want to build people’s skills to help themselves and each other in times of their greatest crisis, so that’s a large part of our educational piece, just empowering people in the community,” Turecek said. “I’m drawn to the work because we’re helping people at their most vulnerable point, at their time of greatest need. We save lives.”

The executive director position was added to SPCS less than five years ago, with Lee-Ellen Marvin, current board director of education, holding it first. Marvin said she has known Turecek for over five years after crisis training with him and working with him on the board. That experience showed her his caring personality, she said.

“He’s very open, very honest, he’s an idea generator, and we need that fresh energy and insight,” Marvin said. “That’s the most important part.”

She was also witness to Turecek’s drive to be involved, which is why she and others on the board chose him for the role.

“He knows our work, and he loves our work,” Marvin said. “There’s that dedication to the organization that we just couldn’t overlook when he applied for the position.”

When Marvin started the position, she was more focused on keeping the organization moving with finances very tight, she said. After she helped turn finances around, SPCS became more financially stable, which will help Turecek achieve his goals.

Though SPCS covers the entire 607 area code with its crisis line, many need services but just do not know about what SPCS does, Turecek said. That is why, he said, his job is to reach out to those people and make sure that those who need SPCS know what services are offered.

“My biggest concern is making sure that we are visible and available throughout the 607 area code; I think that’s our biggest challenge,” he said. “I’m going out and meeting people, making them aware of our services and seeing if we can do collaborations.”

Turecek has been working with schools and other area educators to get the word out about SPCS services. He said many do not properly understand what SPCS offers, like mistakenly thinking the crisis line is only for those with suicidal thoughts. The crisis line is meant for anyone who needs it, including people who are considering suicide, going through a personal struggle or are concerned for a loved one.

Turecek said one of his top priorities is getting the crisis line back to 24-hour availability, as its hours previously had to be cut due to budget constraints. He expects to achieve that goal by November. In addition, he said, he is hoping to hire more staff, and he remains optimistic about the future.

“We provide a really high-quality service in everything that we do,” Turecek said. “We’re prepared to extend those services. … I want to keep doubling down on the things we do well and reach new people with those services.”

Turecek said he is looking forward to working with his team in his new role, especially considering how well he and the rest of SPCS worked together prior to his new position. He described his leadership style as understanding and approachable, being open to new ideas and viewpoints and giving team members responsibilities that suit their skills and their strengths.

“That’s part of what I’m doing is exploring, ‘What do you love? What do you really want to do?’ and then creating opportunities for people to do that,” Turecek said. “That’s what’s exciting to me about being the boss.”

Ultimately, Turecek said, he is happy to once again be able to give back to the community he loves in whatever way he can, giving others the same opportunities he has taken advantage of in life.

“I’m a white man of a certain age, and I’ve had a lot of privilege, and I feel like I have a responsibility … to spend that privilege on behalf of others,” Turecek said. “I’m trying to figure out how I can be of best service, and so far, this feels like the best thing.”

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