Bipartisan Bill Addresses Suicide Crisis in Native Communities

Legislation Would Give Tribes a Seat at the Table in Planning Suicide Prevention Programs

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and fourteen other Senate colleagues in introducing the Native American Suicide Prevention Act. This legislation would help address the alarming suicide rate in Native communities by requiring collaboration among state governments and tribal communities to develop and implement statewide suicide early intervention and prevention strategies. This legislation ensures Native communities are not left out of the planning and execution of statewide suicide prevention programs.

“Year after year Alaska tops the charts with having some of the highest suicide rates in the country. It’s far too prevalent in our Native communities. We also know that one suicide is too many,” said Senator Murkowski. “I am proud to introduce the Native American Suicide Prevention Act with my colleague Senator Warren, to ensure Native communities have a seat at the table in developing and implementing statewide suicide intervention and prevention strategies. Together, we can give Alaskans the support they need and ultimately, hope. ”

“Alaska has had a sad history of high suicide rates, especially among the Alaska Native community, which has some of the highest suicide rates of any ethnic group in the country,” said Senator Sullivan. “Each life lost to suicide is a tragedy for the family and loved ones, for the community, for our state and for our country. We must do more to help stop this epidemic. The Native American Suicide Prevention Act will mandate that Tribal organizations, who know their communities best, have input on developing and implementing statewide suicide intervention and prevention strategies. This bill is part of a solution to save lives and to get Alaskans help when they most need it.”

Background: Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for Alaska Natives. From 2012-2015, the suicide mortality rate for Alaska Natives was 40.9 deaths per 100,000 people. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Region of Alaska had a significant higher rate compared to all other regions of Alaska, with a rate of 64.1 per 100,000 during 2012-2015. To put that in perspective, during 2012-2014 the national suicide rate for all races was 13.1 per 100,000.

The bill has received support from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Alaska Native Health Board, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, the Association on American Indian Affairs, the National Council of Urban Indian Health, and the Association For Behavioral Healthcare.

The Native American Suicide Prevention Act is the Senate companion to H.R. 3473, a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK), and 27 other House cosponsors.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska