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WASHINGTON, DC â€“ Senator Lisa Murkowski and her colleague Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today introduced the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Re-authorization with nine other Senate co-sponsors in an attempt to improve mental health services for young people and prevent youth suicides.
The reauthorization will improve access to counseling for at-risk teens and promote the development of statewide suicide early intervention and prevention strategies. It will also increase federal funding for competitive grants to help states, colleges, universities, and tribes improve mental and behavioral health counseling services.
“Far too many young Alaskan lives are lost in the epidemic of youth suicide, and the statistics are worst in our rural areas,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “When our young people are in despair and get to a certain point, they make a mistaken decision to take their own lives. We owe it to them and to our nation’s future to cast the net upstream and stop them along the way, listen to them and help them overcome their frustrations in a constructive way to stop the cycle and provide a better example to their peers.”
Senator Murkowski places a high priority on the fight against youth suicide because:
“The horrific mass shootings we’ve seen at schools across the country shows that more work must be done to address the mental and behavioral health of children and young adults before they hurt themselves and others. Many young people have a treatable mental illnesses, but they don’t get the help they need. This bill provides critical resources for prevention and outreach programs to help reach at-risk youth before it is too late,” said Senator Jack Reed. “Schools, colleges, and universities are on the front lines of preventing youth suicide and this bill will help provide them with additional resources to diagnose and treat our young people, as well as improve access to care by supporting the training of more qualified mental health professionals.”
The reauthorization bill is named for then-Senator Gordon Smith’s (R-OR) 22-year old son, Garrett, who was a student at Utah Valley University when he took his own life in September of 2003. Gordon Smith authored the original bill and has championed suicide prevention and mental health initiatives.
The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization is also cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Udall (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (R-MN), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Specifically, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization would continue the following efforts:
Ensures grantees receive appropriate information, training, and technical assistance on:
The reauthorization would extend the current $5 million authorization annually through fiscal year (FY) 2018.
Provides States and Tribes/Tribal organizations the authorization to develop and implement:
The reauthorization would increase the authorization from $30 million to $32 million annually through FY18.
Enables colleges and universities to prevent youth suicide by authorizing:
The reauthorization would increase the authorization from $5 million to $7 million annually through FY18.