Awards, Zeeland Community Hospital

Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital’s School Blue Envelope Program Receives Ludwig Award

ZEELAND, Mich., June 25, 2021 – Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital’s collaborative School Blue Envelope suicide prevention program with area schools was named a 2021 Ludwig Community Benefit Award recipient by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA).

The award, announced June 24 at the association’s virtual annual membership meeting, is named in memory of Patric E. Ludwig, a former MHA president who championed investing in the community’s overall health. As one of three award winners across Michigan, Zeeland Community Hospital received a $5,000 grant from the MHA Health Foundation to help continue the program.

“We’re humbled and honored to receive the Ludwig award,” said Bill Hoefer, southwest regional market leader and president, Zeeland Community Hospital. “This program has blossomed into a community-wide aid against the threat of suicide in school-aged youth. Each of the lives saved has made this program a success.”

The School Blue Envelope Program was modeled after the Blue Envelope Program designed by Spectrum Health Medical Group (SHMG) as a resource for patients with thoughts of suicide.

Recognizing the need to address similar mental health concerns in students, Zeeland Community Hospital and SHMG convened a countywide task force to replicate the protocol in the school environment and train school employees in specific steps to respond to students or colleagues expressing thoughts of suicide.

Zeeland Community Hospital, SHMG, the Ottawa County Suicide Coalition and eight Ottawa County schools piloted the program that has now grown to include 14 Allegan, Kent and Ottawa County middle and high schools.

Each participating school tracks “Blue Envelope events,” defined as opportunities to have a discussion with a student expressing thoughts of suicide and linking them with appropriate help. With each event seen as a potential life saved, the program may have potentially saved 510* lives to date.

“In learning how to identify people who may be at risk for suicide— and how to link them to care—our staff feels more prepared and confident in navigating this difficult subject when they see the warning signs,” said Karen Legg, a counselor at Holland Middle School.

Jessica Knoth, Zeeland East High School Principal, said the program has literally saved lives.

“Implementing the Spectrum Health blue envelope process in our schools has saved lives of both staff and students through training, awareness and effective response,” Knoth said.

To date, more than 950 school employees have been trained to have critical conversations with youth in crisis, impacting over 12,000 students.

Mental health was one of the top three health concerns identified in the 2018 Ottawa County Community Health Needs Assessment. The survey found an increase in area youth who had suicidal thoughts and actions.

Members of a Blue Envelope School Task Force spent a year planning the program with representation from Holland Public Schools, Hope College, The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan (be nice.), Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, Ottawa County Department of Public Health, Ottawa County Community Mental Health, Holland Hospital, North Ottawa Community Hospital, West Michigan Academy of Arts & Academics, West Ottawa Public Schools, Zeeland Public Schools, Spectrum Health Medical Group and Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital.

“The implementation of this program took more than two years of work and dedication from our team and numerous community collaborators,” added Joe Klesney, chief operating officer at Zeeland Community Hospital. “I would like to share a special thank you to the community programs team and their counterparts who contributed to the success of this now award-winning program! They are truly fulfilling the Spectrum Health mission of saving lives.”

*Includes 2020/2021 school year data


Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system that provides care and coverage, comprising 31,000+ team members, 14 hospitals (including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital), a robust network of care facilities, teams of nationally recognized doctors and providers, and the nation’s third-largest provider-sponsored health plan, Priority Health, currently serving over 1 million members across the state of Michigan. People are at the heart of everything we do. Locally governed and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we are focused on our mission: to improve health, inspire hope and save lives. Spectrum Health has a legacy of strong community partnerships, philanthropy and transparency. Through experience, innovation and collaboration, we are reimagining a better, more equitable model of health and wellness.

Ashley Kiekintveld
Marketing and Communications
Phone: 616.748.3610