A national suicide prevention organization and several Idaho groups with the same mission plan to spend Thursday trying to convince Idaho lawmakers to implement four recommendations. Those recommendations are the top priorities from a twelve-point suicide prevention plan created last year by the Idaho Health Quality Planning Commission.
The HQPC is a group of healthcare professionals, insurance industry reps and academics that advises Idaho lawmakers on ways to improve healthcare. It has identified suicide as one of the biggest public health threats facing Idaho.
Bob Polk, a physician and recently retired executive for St. Alphonsus is the commission's chair. Polk says the top recommendation is to create a state office of suicide prevention. He says in Idaho the issue is largely left up to disparate nonprofits.
“Not that the efforts today haven’t been beneficial,” Polk says. “They have been beneficial. But we feel like we can get more by having an office of suicide prevention to coordinate, guide, set strategy, to create really a system of care around suicide prevention.”
The other three priorities are creating permanent funding for the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, implementing a teen-specific prevention training program around the state and doing a public awareness campaign.
Bob Polk says so far lawmakers have been supportive of the recommendations.
“Both Health and Welfare committees were very responsive,” Polk says. “The chairman of each committee, both of them did recommend the HQPC suicide prevention program in their report to JFAC.”
But it’s JFAC, the budget writing committee, that will have the ultimate say. Polk says each recommendation comes with a price tag. For example, he says over five years they can teach half of Idaho middle and high school students about suicide prevention for about $800,000.
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