Murkowski Steps Up Fight Against Alaskan Youth Suicide
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Lisa Murkowski today joined efforts to extend needed funds, service and resources to Alaska’s at-risk youth communities -- as a co-sponsor of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2011. The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Tom Udall (D-NM), would strengthen suicide prevention efforts for the state, tribal organizations, and college campuses.
“Alaska’s children are our most valuable natural resource – and they’re threatened by an epidemic of suicide. Thousands of Alaskans stood up and chose respect last week, but the first step is to teach and help our children to respect themselves. I’m proud to join my Senate colleagues in stepping up our fight for Alaska’s future.”
The legislation addresses the crisis of youth suicide from three fronts; providing grants for Suicide Prevention Resource Centers, providing grants for states and tribes to develop and implement a state sponsored youth suicide early intervention and prevention strategy, and also providing grants for College campuses. Past beneficiaries of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act in Alaska include the State of Alaska Department of Health and Human Social Services, Alaska Youth Suicide Prevention Project, Southcentral Foundation, Kawerak, Inc. and Maniilaq Association.
“As a mother, I know every child is different. That’s why one of the strengths of this bill is that it takes solutions to thousands of vulnerable young Alaskans -- whether they’re in a Kotzebue Sound village or a classroom in Juneau,” Murkowski said.
Alaska’s suicide rate is highest in the country, and twice the national average. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Alaskan youth ages 10-19, and the second leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 10-24, with males committing suicide at a rate five times higher than females.
The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2011 has been sent to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, where Sen. Murkowski is a member.