Suicide prevention legislation passes the Idaho House

By Betsy Russell, Spokesman Review

Two bills aimed at implementing a long-sought statewide suicide prevention plan in Idaho passed the House today, the first on a unanimous, 64-0 vote, and the second on a 52-15 vote. The first bill, SB 1326, formally grants authority to the Department of Health & Welfare and its director to provide “services for the prevention of suicide.” They do that already, but this formalizes it as the state moves to implement its statewide plan, which includes ongoing funding for the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, youth programming, a public awareness campaign, training, and four new positions at the department. That bill earlier passed the Senate, also unanimously; it now heads to Gov. Butch Otter.

The second measure, HB 566, is the budget bill for the Public Health Services Division of Health & Welfare, which includes the funding for the new suicide prevention efforts. It includes $961,100 in state funds, including the four new positions.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, who had joined in the unanimous vote on SB 1326, asked Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, the sponsor of HB 566, “So does that mean now that the Health & Welfare Department is going to be expanding into this issue more?” Malek responded, “Yes. There will be dedicated resources specifically to ensure that evidence-based practices will be put in place to reduce the prevalence of suicide in Idaho.”

The suicide prevention plan follows last year’s SCR 104, which passed both houses unanimously, and directed the state Health Quality Planning Commission to develop a state suicide prevention plan. It also follows the recommendations of that commission.

Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, asked if the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline could still continue to receive private donations under the bill; Malek said yes. No one debated against the bill; the 15 “no” votes were from Reps. Anderson, Barbieri, Batt, Boyle, Chaney, Crane, Dayley, Dixon, Harris, McMillan, Mendive, Nate, Nielsen, Scott and Sims. The budget bill now moves to the Senate.