TOPEKA – (May 7, 2019) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today commended legislative approval of a bill to create a Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator to implement recommendations of the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force.
“The Legislature took an important step to stem the rising number of child and teen suicides in Kansas by establishing a Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator,” Schmidt said. “I am grateful the Legislature is giving serious attention to the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force recommendations.”
In June 2018, Schmidt and the Tower Mental Health Foundation formed the task force to survey efforts underway in Kansas to reduce the incidence of youth suicide and provide recommendations on further steps that could be taken. In addition to creating the coordinator position, the legislation adopts several of the task force recommendations by requiring the coordinator to:
- Lead the development, implementation and marketing of a website, online application and mobile phone application to facilitate communication with youth for the purpose of preventing youth suicide and promoting youth safety and well-being.
- Develop and promote multidisciplinary and interagency strategies to help communities, schools, mental health professionals, medical professionals, law enforcement and others work together and coordinate efforts to prevent and address youth suicide.
- Organize events that bring together youth, educators and community members from across the state to share information and receive training to prevent and address youth suicide in their communities.
- Gather, disseminate and promote information focused on suicide reduction.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available from the State Child Death Review Board, the number of suicides in Kansas by persons 18 years of age or younger was 20 at a rate of 3.0 deaths per 100,000 population. Unfortunately, this continued the steady increase since 2005, which had eight suicides at a rate of 1.1 deaths per 100,000 population.
“I intend to appoint a coordinator who will give this serious and important problem the attention and leadership it requires,” Schmidt said. “Kansas needs to change that trend line so the number of youth suicides stops increasing and instead begins to decline.”
Members of the task force that recommended the actions included in the legislation were:
- Prof. Jennifer Schmidt (co-chair), Clinical Associate Professor of Law, University of Kansas
- Dr. Andy Tompkins (co-chair), Interim President, Wichita State University
- Senator Molly Baumgardner, Chair, Senate Education Committee
- Kearny County Deputy Sheriff Randy Combs, Past President, Kansas Juvenile Officer Association
- Dr. Leo Herrman, Associate Professor of Psychology, Ft. Hays State University
- Representative Russ Jennings, Chair, House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee
- Kathryn Mosher, MS MBA, Executive Director, Central Kansas Mental Health Center
- Dorthy Stucky Halley, Director of Victims Services Division, Office of the Kansas Attorney General
- Dr. Randy Watson, Commissioner of Education
The bill, adopted as part of the conference committee report on House Bill 2290, now heads to the governor’s desk for her consideration and possible signature into law.
A copy of the task force report, including a full list of its recommendations, is available at https://ag.ks.gov/ysptf.