[HARTFORD, CT] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined Senate colleagues in introducing legislation to prevent youth suicide, which is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 24. The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act would fund suicide prevention initiatives, ensure health care providers receive training to prevent intentional harm, and create a centralized hub to provide safety information to at-risk youth and their support networks.

“Across the country we are seeing a trend of increasing suicide rates that are beyond disturbing and gut-wrenching. We know we can do something. That’s why I’ve introduced the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act to support care and counseling wherever children can be reached – in the schools, in the doctor’s office, in emergency departments,” said Blumenthal on Mondayat a press conference at The Village for Families and Children in Hartford. “Fighting this crisis is critical. With federal funding and support, it must happen.”

Suicide rates among young Americans increased by 52 percent between 2000 and 2021 according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A June 2021 CDC report found a significant increase in emergency department visits for suicide attempts among adolescents aged 12-17 during the pandemic, including a spike of more than 50 percent among adolescent girls. In Connecticut, between January 2016 and September 2022, 48 Connecticut children ages 10 to 17 died by suicide.  The age of children dying by suicide in Connecticut is getting younger and younger, according to the Office of the Child Advocate. A critical opportunity to identify young people at risk is in health care settings, but many health care professionals lack the training or resources to do so. This bill prepares health care professionals to identify and respond to warning signs by training them in evidence-based suicide prevention practices like lethal means safety, a practice limiting access to objects that can be used for self-directed violence, and providing funding to connect at-risk patients with crisis resources.

Specifically, the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act would:

  • Establish a grant program to provide funding for initiatives that offer youth suicide prevention and lethal means safety education, training, and resources to health care professionals.
  • Establish a grant program to integrate lethal means safety and suicide prevention topics into curricula at health professional schools to ensure that future nurses, doctors, and mental and behavioral health care providers have received the education and training that will allow them to prevent lethal means injuries, deaths, and suicides among their patients.
  • Create a centralized hub to provide important lethal means safety and suicide prevention information to at-risk youth and their family members, health professional schools, and health care providers.

Blumenthal has championed initiatives to expand access to mental health care for young people. This year’s government funding bill, which Blumenthal supported, included $104 million for the Youth Mentoring Grant Program, $98.9 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative, $135 million for STOP School Violence Act programs, and $160 million to the Department of Education to address the shortage of school-based mental health professionals across K-12 schools.

The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act is led by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), and cosponsored by U.S. Senators Blumenthal, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Laphonza Butler (D-CA). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) and Kim Schrier (D-WA-8).

The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act is supported by more than 30 organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, American Public Health Association, American Hospital Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, Federation of American Hospitals, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, SMART Recovery, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, PA Education Association, Association for Behavioral & Cognitive Therapies, Newtown Action Alliance Foundation, National Association of Social Workers, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Sandy Hook Promise, Illinois Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, Doc Wayne, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, March for Our Lives, Active Minds, Giffords, Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, American Public Health Association – Public Health Nursing Section, Association of Community Health Nursing Educators, Association of Public Health Nurses, National Association of School Nurses, Rural Nurse Organization, and National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.

By Alex

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