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Senate Allies Push for Suicide Prevention Funding

May 6, 2005

A bipartisan coalition of House members -- led by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Harry Reid (D-NV) -- are currently pushing their colleagues to include funding for recently authorized federal initiatives to expand effective youth suicide prevention services.

FY 2006 Funding for Youth Suicide Prevention Initiatives

This past fall, Congress passed -- and President Bush signed into law -- the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (P.L. 108-355), authorizing new programs at SAMHSA to support states and local communities in developing comprehensive strategies for suicide prevention among adolescents and young adults. The new law also authorizes expansion of campus-based mental health services. NAMI strongly supports this new law. For FY 2005, Congress allocated $7 million for programs authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Act, including planning grants to the states to develop comprehensive suicide prevention strategies. NAMI urges full funding in FY 2006 ($16.5 million) for suicide prevention activities authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Act.

Action Required

Advocates are strongly encouraged to contact their Senators and urge them to sign the Smith-DeWine-Dodd-Reed-Reid letter in support of FY 2006 funding for suicide prevention and campus mental health initiatives authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Act. All Senate offices can be reached by calling 202-224-3121 or at www.senate.gov

In calling Senate offices, advocates are strongly encouraged to remind members of Congress that:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth aged 10 to 24. 
  • About every two hours, a young person under the age of 25 commits suicide. 
  • Tragically, over 4,000 young lives are lost each year to suicide.
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic disease combined. 
  • The good news is that with proper mental illness treatment, many of these suicides can be prevented.
  • To help ensure that at-risk youth get the services they need, the Garrett Lee Smith Act provides grant funding to states for development of a youth suicide prevention and intervention strategy.
  • By requiring states to distribute at least 85 percent of grant funding to entities that will carry out the implementation of the state strategy, this legislation will help ensure that federal funds will reach youth at risk for suicide.
  • Funds authorized under the Garrett Lee Smith Act can be used by school districts, juvenile justice systems, local governments and non-profit behavioral health entities to implement a variety of programs targeted at preventing youth suicide, including mental health screening and treatment services.
  • The Garrett Lee Smith Act also provides support for colleges and universities to establish or enhance their mental illness treatment and outreach services in campuses across the country.
  • The new law also establishes a federal Suicide Technical Assistance Center to provide guidance to grantees, establish standards for data collection, and collect, evaluate and disseminate data related to the program.

Thanks for your outstanding advocacy work.


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