Congressman Chris Stewart

Representing the 2nd District of Utah
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Stewart Leads Bipartisan Suicide Prevention Efforts

Jan 15, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT) joins Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) in introducing the Suicide Prevention Act. This bipartisan legislation aims to provide new resources to help reverse the tragic rise of suicide across the nation.

Rates of suicide have risen to epidemic levels in the United States, with suicide now the tenth leading cause of death in the country.  On average, there are roughly 129 deaths by suicide every day. This bill would enhance data collection and sharing, as appropriate, in real-time, to help save lives. It also provides funding for suicide prevention programs in emergency departments to train and equip personnel in suicide prevention strategies.

 “Suicide hits close to home with Utah having the 5th highest suicide rate in the nation. I’ve met with family and friends of those who have taken their own life. I’ve heard their stories and I’m responding to their pleas for help. This bill is a part of my longstanding commitment to reverse this troubling trend.”— Rep. Chris Stewart

“No American struggling with self-harm or suicidal ideation should have to face their challenges alone. The Suicide Prevention Act will provide our emergency departments with the tools to identify and support at-risk patients, during and after their hospital visits,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “There are thousands of patients who show up to emergency departments showing signs of self-harm behavior and are simply overlooked once they leave care.  With suicide rates climbing to unprecedented levels we need to act now.  We have a moral obligation to provide the most complete and expansive resources, leverage data to inform policy and best practices, and effectively implement prevention programs and protocols for those who have the knowledge to save lives.”

"The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the nation’s largest non-profit dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, thanks Senators Kennedy (R-LA) and Reed (D-RI) and Representatives Matsui (D-CA-6) and Stewart (R-UT-2) for introducing the Suicide Prevention Act. Through a grant program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this bill would implement data collection efforts that will help our understanding of suicide attempts and self-harm. AFSP also thanks the Members for the inclusion of grant funding to implement hospital programs to prevent suicide attempts among patients after discharge. As 39% of people who die by suicide make an Emergency Department visit in the year prior to their death, this bill will save lives,” said John Madigan, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at AFSP.

More about the “Suicide Prevention Act”:

Expanding Data Collection to Improve Prevention Efforts

This legislation would authorize funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to partner with state and local health departments to improve surveillance of suicide attempts and other incidences of self-harm.  Current data collection efforts regarding suicide are often years after the fact, which limits the ability of state and local health departments, as well as community organizations, to recognize trends early and intervene.  This bill would enhance data collection and sharing, as appropriate, in real-time, to help save lives.

Preventing Suicide Among Emergency Department Patients

Recognizing that emergency health care providers are at the frontlines of responding to suicide attempts, this bill would authorize funding for a grant program within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to fund suicide prevention programs in emergency departments (ED) to better train staff in suicide prevention strategies, screen at-risk patients, and refer patients to appropriate follow-up care.  The legislation would also require SAMHSA to develop best practices for such programs, so that health care providers are able to provide their patients with the best possible care and advice.  Approximately 37 percent of individuals without a previous history of mental health or substance abuse who die by suicide make an ED visit within the year before their death.  According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the risk of suicide is greatest within a month of discharge from the hospital. 

Companion legislation to the Suicide Prevention Act is being introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).