Forefront’s Policy Priorities 2019-21

Scientific American recently called the U.S. suicide rate “nothing short of an epidemic,” with one life lost every 11.7 minutes. Washington’s suicide rate is 11 percent higher than the national average, with 1,292 deaths in 2017 including 255 veterans, 87 young people under 19, and approximately, 7,782 new survivors of suicide loss negatively impacted by this complex form of trauma and experience a major life disruption (American Association of Suicidology, 2017).

Many suicides are preventable.  This public health emergency requires immediate attention including public and private funding to fuel robust upgrades to our systems, innovation and widespread dissemination of community-based interventions.  Washington’s legislature has taken positive steps requiring training in suicide prevention for all behavioral and health care professionals, and is poised to continue its leadership in the coming session.  Due to the complexity of the issue of suicide, we need to continue to attack this crisis from multiple angles and approaches.

Governor’s Budget: It contains essential investments in suicide prevention including funding for 1) expansion of lifesaving services provided by Washington state crisis lines partnering with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; 2) staffing at the Health Care Authority to focus on suicide prevention care in health care settings; 3) nine regional behavioral health coordinators to help connect K-12 students to care, and to support schools in crisis response planning.

Strengthen School-Based Suicide Prevention Efforts:  Building on HB 1336 (passed in 2013), we support policy that would use public/private funding to bring suicide prevention planning to schools, including mandated reporting to parents/guardians when concern exists about a student suicide risk.

Expand the Safer Homes, Suicide Aware Program:  This program launched in 2017 with strong bipartisan support and a public-private funding model.  New policy would expand Safer Homes partners to support more veterans, law enforcement, workplaces and underserved rural and ethnic minority communities, providing brief intervention and trainings in suicide prevention and free locking devices for medications and firearms.

Increase the Number of Mental Health Professionals Qualified to Treat Suicidal Individuals:  We support policy that builds on the health professional loan repayment program to provide funding to forgive student loans for newly licensed mental health professionals who are educated in rigorous suicide-prevention practices and who agree to work in public mental health for three years. These professionals will be certified to provide evidence-based treatments.

Join Forefront Suicide Prevention on Monday, February 11, 2019 in Olympia, Washington for the 2019 Suicide Prevention Education Day in Olympia on February 11. Your participation is needed to build solutions to the issue of suicide. This will be an inspiring and education-filled day, including a Ceremony of Remembrance and Hope, locking device giveaway, and suicide prevention training.