Tester backs bill to reduce Montana’s suicide rate

Senator’s bipartisan measure will help people at risk for suicide, support rural areas

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is supporting bipartisan legislation to reduce the high rate of suicide in Montana.

Tester is supporting the reauthorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act.  Named after the late son of former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, the bill provides grants to develop early intervention and prevention strategies and offers assistance for mental health services in schools.

“All hands need to be on deck when it comes to preventing suicide,” Tester said.  “We need to do everything we can to help our young people lead healthy, productive lives.  This bill makes sure that everyone has access to life-saving tools and resources and that the tragedy of suicide receives the attention it deserves.”

The bill expands the mission of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center to include a focus on “high risk” groups.  Suicide rates are higher in rural areas, as well as among young people and Native Americans. 

The bill also recognizes that youth suicide is a public health crisis that is often linked to underlying mental health problems. 

Risk factors for suicide include substance abuse, family history of suicide, unemployment and poverty.  About 200 Montanans die each year from suicide.

Tester held a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Poplar in August to find solutions to the rising number of suicides in Indian Country.  Fort Peck declared an emergency last year after six children killed themselves and another 20 attempted suicide.

Tester’s bipartisan bill, which builds on a 2004 law, is cosponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).  It is available online HERE.