MISSOULA, Mont. - State lawmakers are looking at House Bill 265, which would create a school suicide prevention competitive grant program. The bill would require school districts to adopt a suicide prevention plan.
Money for the grant would come from a 1 percent increase on vehicle rental tax. The measure would raise a little over $1 million a year.
Missoula resident Michelle Fields says schools should be prepared with a plan.
“Teenagers can get depressed or have a mental illness or be in a dysfunctional home,” Fields said. “Schools need to help prevent suicide because students may try to be hurting themselves.”
Here are some key points of HB 265:
- A school that’s awarded the grant must adopt a suicide prevention plan
- A risk response coordinator must be present at each school district
- Have a community health provider to refer students to
- Have a plan for students that return to school after a suicide attempt
The bill would also allow school districts that receive the grant to provide mental screenings for students seventh through 12th grade.
Hellgate Middle School counselor Brian Hall says if the bill requires all faculty and staff to be trained to detect suicide warnings it could save a child’s life.
“If there is training for classroom teachers and other people involved in the school then that would be a good thing,” Hall said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.
A survey from the CDC says 16 percent of students in ninth through 12th grade reported seriously considering suicide, 13 percent reported creating a plan and 8 percent reported trying to take their own life.
Each year the CDC says approximately 4,600 youths die each year from suicide.
If the bill passes, the superintendent of public instruction will have until Dec. 31, to develop a model suicide prevention plan.