Warren, Murkowski, Grijalva, & Cole Re-Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Suicide Crisis in Native Communities

Legislation Gives Tribal Nations a Seat at the Table in Planning Suicide Prevention Programs

United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), along with Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.), re-introduced the bipartisan Native American Suicide Prevention Act in the Senate and the House. This legislation would help address the alarming suicide rate in Native communities by requiring collaboration among states and tribal nations in the design and implementation of statewide suicide intervention and prevention strategies.

Senators Warren, Murkowski, and fifteen of their Senate colleagues first introduced this legislation in the Senate in the last Congress. It has been introduced by Representative Grijalva in the House of Representatives since 2013.

“It’s important that we recognize that each tribal nation understands how to best serve their respective communities and should be a part of any conversation that affects the livelihood of their people,” said Senator Warren. “This bipartisan legislation is a necessary step in ensuring that tribal nations are listened to and are empowered to create suicide prevention programs tailored to the needs of their tribal communities.”

"Alaska consistently tops the charts with some of the highest suicide rates in the country, with a disproportionately high rate in Native communities. When someone takes their own life, families and often entire communities are impacted by the shock and grief that follows," said Senator Murkowski. "I’m proud to introduce the Native American Suicide Prevention Act, alongside Senator Warren and many other Senate colleagues, to ensure Alaska Native communities have a voice in developing and implementing culturally relevant suicide prevention and intervention strategies. Our goal is to save lives and to give hope and support to so many Alaskans in need."

“Uplifting the voices of Native peoples and tribal governments is critical to forming culturally appropriate solutions to tackle the suicide epidemic plaguing Native American reservations,” said Rep. Grijalva. “This bill will begin a process of inclusion and should be coupled with addressing the economic insecurity, high unemployment rates, and limited access to quality healthcare that cause underlying issues of injustice and hardship faced by tribal communities. I look forward to empowering tribes and helping them implement solutions with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to ensure that no family endures the trauma or losing a loved one to suicide.”

“The chilling rate at which Native Americans are lost to suicide calls for urgent action,” said Rep. Cole. “In response to this public health crisis preying on young Native Americans, I am proud to reintroduce commonsense legislation that seeks to change the troubling current reality. With access to the right tools in tribal communities, I believe intervention can happen sooner and precious lives can be saved.”

The suicide epidemic on Native American reservations continues to reach crisis levels. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Native people ages 10-34. For American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 15-34, the suicide rate is 1.5 times higher than the national average. In some tribal communities, the youth suicide rate is 10 times greater than the national average. 

Despite the devastating scope of this crisis and the clear need for Native communities' involvement in the development of suicide prevention strategies, tribal nations and tribal organizations are too often left out of planning and execution of statewide suicide prevention programs.

The Native American Suicide Prevention Act would help address this epidemic by amending the Public Health Service Act to require states or state-designated entities to collaborate with each federally recognized tribal nation, tribal organization, urban Indian organization, and Native Hawaiian health care system in the state in developing and implementing statewide suicide early intervention and prevention strategies.

Joining Senators Warren and Murkowski in sponsoring this legislation are Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).

For text of the bill click here.


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