A newly signed law will expand existing crisis and suicide prevention training programs to include those that “train the trainer” in public schools.
The Suicide Prevention, Intervention & Postvention Act, House Bill 1119, was signed into law last week.
The measure, as backers described it, also funds peer-to-peer programs that help students support their classmates, and incorporates followup care into Colorado’s suicide prevention methods to support people and communities in the aftermath of a suicide attempt.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is to update its prevention resources to include region-specific information for primary care providers on recognizing suicidal patients and how to respond. That includes information that can be shared with patients and info for care facilities to share upon the individual’s release, an announcement from the General Assembly said.
The bill broadens the state’s priorities and focus on suicide, suicide attempts and the after-effects of those actions on survivors, family, friends, health care providers, first and last responders, educators, and students in schools where a suicide or suicide attempt has occurred.
The measure further renames certain offices and commissions that are charged with suicide prevention efforts.
For Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who carried the bill in the Senate with Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, the after-care is critical, and the measure will serve to bring more awareness.
“I think it brings it to the forefront, getting people aware of it,” Coram said. “I think in general, teen suicide, and suicide in general, are things that make a lot of people uncomfortable. They don’t want to talk about it. It is real.”
Research cited in the General Assembly’s announcement shows that people who knew someone who died by suicide were 1.6 times as likely to have suicidal thoughts; 2.9 times more likely to have a plan for suicide and 3.7 times more likely to have attempted suicide.
The Assembly’s announcement noted that suicide is becoming a more common manner of death among peace officers, medical professionals — and school-aged children.
“Far too many of us have seen firsthand just how devastating and widespread the impact of a suicide can be on a community,” said Donovan, in a provided statement.
“This bill empowers the Suicide Prevention Commission to proactively prevent, intervene, and react to suicide in Colorado by recognizing and addressing the full scope of the problem. We are meeting the moment with the urgency it requires and I’m proud to see the bill signed into law.”
Coram said that people who are suicidal may get help at the outset, but some tend to drop off the radar once the initial crisis is past. The new act establishes more longterm help, instead of a system that moves on after initial help is provided, he also said.
Coram’s District 6 includes Montrose and a fair chunk of the Western Slope, which statistically has one of the high rates of suicide nationally, per 100,000 people, and that’s highly concerning, he said.
Representative Lindsey Daugherty, D-Arvada, who sponsored the bill in the House with Rep. Janice Rich, said too many residents have endured the devastation of a death by suicide or an attempt. In provided remarks, she called the new law a “great step forward” and a more comprehensive approach to reducing suicide deaths among young people.
“This is the beginning, not the end,” Coram said. “I see us doing a lot more things in the next 12 to 18 months on mental health issues and just reaching out and giving the help they need.”
The same day Gov. Jared Polis signed HB-1119, he also signed into law House Bill 1097, creating the Behavioral Health Administration. As described, the measure requires the Colorado Department of Human Services with creating a plan for a single state entity that would be responsible for administering and overseeing behavioral health programs in Colorado.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow on Twitter, @kathMDP.