New legislation introduced by Benton County’s own Representative Sara Gelser aims to reduce youth suicide rates in Oregon by establishing what will be known as a Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Coordinator within the Oregon Health Authority. This person would be a mental health professional responsible for statewide planning in youth suicide prevention.
HB 4124 addresses key barriers to suicide prevention. Primarily this legislation dedicates staffing to research and development of best practices for teen suicide prevention, including updating the Oregon Suicide Prevention Plan, which has been stagnant since 1997. This includes encouraging collaboration between coordinated care organizations and schools to provide better care for students in high-risk categories. One point discussed in the hearings on this bill is the fact that the mental health system in the state of Oregon is designed primarily to best serve adults struggling with chronic mental health needs, and as such does not serve youth who are in crisis situations adequately.
Oregon places as 10th highest in the country for suicide; it is hoped this legislation is a step in the right direction to protect the state’s adolescents. While this bill is not yet exempt from suspicion that it is simply bureaucratic shuffling, it does put personnel to work on the problem that we do not currently have.