In 2017, there were 1,292 deaths by suicide in Washington state, including 255 veterans, 87 youths under the age of 19 and 77 construction workers (the industry with the highest rate of suicide). Additionally, there were approximately 7,782 new survivors of suicide loss adversely impacted by this complex form of trauma who are now experiencing major life disruption. What makes these deaths more tragic—many were preventable. This public health emergency requires sustained public and private investment to fuel desperately needed improvements to our mental health and health care systems.
The Governor’s budget contains important elements that begin to address the crisis. The budget contains funding for: 1) expansion of services to individuals in suicide crisis provided by Washington state crisis lines partnering with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; and 2) implementation of the Bree Collaborative Suicide Care Recommendations aimed at improving the care individuals in suicide crisis receive in health care settings.
Forefront supports these specific Governor proposals and more needs to be done. Suicide prevention must be at the forefront of the integration of health and mental health systems, and must include support for our schools, state department of veterans affairs, institutions of higher education, jails and correctional facilities.
FOREFRONT’S POLICY PRIORITIES THIS SESSION:
- SUPPORT HB 1593, which will ensure suicide prevention remains at top priority as the state builds a behavioral health innovation and integration campus within the University of Washington School of Medicine.
- SUPPORT HB 5428, which will expand veterans’ mental health services at public institutions of higher education.
- SUPPORT A BUDGET PROVISO FOR HB 1648, which did not get a hearing in appropriations. HB 1648 requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop and implement a statewide plan to reduce suicide among service members, veterans, and their families. Additionally, it expands the work of the Safer Homes, Suicide Aware program, to focus on workplace suicide prevention in industries like construction with the highest suicide rates and continues the distribution of free, high-quality locking devices for medications and firearms subsidized by private industry.
- AMEND SCHOOL SAFETY CENTER BILLS SB 5317 & HB 1216 to include a youth suicide prevention focus, which includes: 1) more school mental health counselors in schools who are trained to address the needs of suicidal youth ensuring that parents and guardians are involved in safety plans that are developed for students; 2) curriculum for youth in schools that teaches skills in emotional regulation and suicide prevention and educates youth about mental health.