Murkowski Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Effort to Fight Youth Suicide

With Rural Youth at Greater Risk, Senator Seeks More Intervention and Prevention

Senator Lisa Murkowski joined her colleague Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to introduce the Garrett Lee Smith Reauthorization Act in order to improve mental health services for young people and in turn, help prevent youth suicide.  A recent study found that “suicide rates for young people are almost twice as high in rural areas” than cities, lending urgency to this bill’s aims.

“Suicide casts an enormous and dark shadow across our state, and we must do everything we can to fight it. This suicide epidemic is especially prevalent in rural Alaska – where Native men have the highest suicide rates of any group in the nation. The impacts are not felt just by immediate family, but by the community as a whole for years after each tragic event,” said Murkowski. “Studies have shown that rates of suicide are disproportionally higher in rural areas due in part to a shortage of mental health care access, and I am proud to back this critical legislation to help improve that.”

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.

The Garrett Lee Smith Reauthorization Act is co-sponsored by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Harry Reid (D-NV).