Lawmaker: Illinois not doing enough to prevent suicides

Lawmaker: Illinois not doing enough to prevent suicides

New office proposed to handle suicide prevention strategy


Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD — Suicide is a problem both lawmakers and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention think Illinois can better address.

The most recent data available show 1,474 Illinoisans died by suicide in 2017, a rate of one person every six hours. That’s more than four times the number of alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths that year, and it makes suicide the 11th leading cause of death in Illinois.

Yet the state has only one entity responsible for suicide prevention, an advisory board created in 2004 called the Illinois Suicide Prevention Alliance.

Although Steve Moore, co-chair on the board of AFSP Illinois, acknowledged the Alliance’s work at a news event Wednesday, according to a press release, the state devotes “insufficient resources” to an “obsolete” prevention strategy.

“There’s really no one driving suicide prevention in this state,” Moore said, noting that the Prevention Alliance has neither budget nor staff.

That is why Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans is sponsoring legislation on behalf of AFSP that would create a new Office of Suicide Prevention within the state’s Department of Public Health.

The new office, staffed by a director and an undetermined number of dedicated personnel, would direct the existing Alliance to create a new state suicide prevention strategy, and then help implement it.

The Alliance’s current prevention strategy is based on the 2002 guidelines and recommendations of the U.S. Surgeon General. In 2012, however, the Surgeon General released new data and research, and updated its prevention strategy. 

Steans’ bill would make the Illinois Alliance update its statewide prevention strategy based on these new findings.

Moore said this translates to making sure health care systems recognize that primary care doctors are “the first line of defense against suicide,” and, more generally, put greater emphasis on training and intervention. This is because, according to the legislation, over 30 percent of people are receiving mental health care at the time of their suicide, while 45 percent have seen their primary care physician within one month of their death.

Consistent with national trends, the rate of suicide in Illinois went up 38 percent from 2004 to 2017, from 8.11 deaths per 100,000 people to 11.19 deaths per 100,000.

The Prairie State, though, has one of the lowest suicide rates of any state.

One amendment has been added to Senate Bill 1425 since it was assigned to the Senate Public Health Committee. It is scheduled for a hearing before that committee on March 12.

© Copyright 2019 Capitol News Illinois


Grant MorganGrant Morgan

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