SD19 - Developing a Plan and Strategy for Suicide Prevention in the Commonwealth (SJR 108)
In the Commonwealth, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-35. On average, two adults a day and one teenager a week died through suicide. (*1)
Over the past 14 years, attention in the Commonwealth has been focused on suicide prevention among the elderly and youth. In 1990, the Virginia Department for the Aging developed a Statewide Suicide and Substance Abuse Prevention Plan. In 2001, the Commission on Youth developed a Youth Suicide Prevention Plan. In May 2002, the Third Annual Virginia Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Healing Conference was held, focusing on regional suicide prevention planning.
Meanwhile, at the national level, in 1999, the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Suicide recommended completion of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. Published in 2001, the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention has prompted a number of states to develop plans for suicide prevention across the life span, from youth to old age.
While some suicide prevention activities in the Commonwealth are directed primarily at youth and the elderly, there is no overall suicide prevention strategy across the life span. No single agency acts as a clearinghouse or coordinator of activities related to suicide prevention. In order for the Commonwealth to address the issue of suicide prevention across the life span, the following recommendations are proposed.
1. Building on the momentum from the May 2002 Virginia Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Healing Conference, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, in cooperation with the Secretaries of Education and Public Safety, should lead an interagency and cross-secretarial effort to formulate a comprehensive Suicide Prevention Across the Life Span Plan for the Commonwealth. Agencies that should participate in this effort include the Departments of Health; Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services; Social Services; Education; Juvenile Justice; Criminal Justice Services; State Police; and Corrections; the Department for the Aging and any other state agency that has a specific interest, responsibility or role in the development of the plan.
2. The Department of Health and the Department for the Aging should be the agencies responsible for actually developing this plan, supporting the Secretary's efforts. The Departments of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services; Social Services; Education; Juvenile Justice; Criminal Justice Services; State Police; and Corrections should provide assistance to the Department of Health, the Department for the Aging, and the Secretary's Office in the development of this plan.
3. All affected stakeholders should be involved in the development of this plan. Stakeholders include public and private service providers (e.g., suicide crisis hotlines, mental health services agencies), local correctional facilities, family members and survivors, advocacy groups, the faith community, medical professionals, the media, and first-line responders (e.g., emergency medical technicians). Public hearings should be conducted around the Commonwealth to solicit input from and participation by stakeholders and other interested parties.
4. The plan should be completed by October 1, 2004, and presented to the Governor and the General Assembly for their consideration and possible action during the 2005 legislative session.
5. The plan should address suicide prevention across the life span with a special emphasis on effective strategies to prevent suicide among adolescent and elderly Virginians and all other identified high-risk populations.
6. In developing the plan, previous planning efforts in Virginia and in other states, as well as the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, should be reviewed and applicable recommendations, goals, objectives, and strategies should be integrated into this new comprehensive plan.
7. The plan should identify workable and effective organizational structures at the state and regional or local levels to implement the recommendations in the plan.
8. The plan should establish Virginia's public policy regarding the prevention of suicide, identify the lead agency responsible for carrying out that policy, propose initiatives and interventions to effectively operationalize that policy, and identify the sources and amounts of resources to implement those initiatives and interventions.
9. Finally, the plan should identify a permanent oversight body to monitor the implementation of the plan. This oversight body should report annually on December 1 to the Governor and the General Assembly on the prevention of suicide in the Commonwealth. This report should identify any new initiatives or interventions and the resources necessary to implement them to enhance the Commonwealth's efforts to prevent suicide.
(*1) See "Leading Causes of Death, Virginia" Chart on page 3.