Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention releases recommendations

Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention releases recommendations

The Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention released its recommendations Wednesday, but a group of Democrats deemed them incomplete for not including a bill that would temporarily disarm people who pose a threat to themselves.

Task force Chair Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, said that 918 Wisconsinites died by suicide in 2017, and thousands more made a suicide attempt.

“It’s clear that we must do more,” she said at a Wednesday press conference.

Vice Chair Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, praised the task force’s work. But he’d like to see the task force spend more money, around the $5 million the Legislature allotted for plans from a recent foster care task force.

“Five million dollars to save people’s lives is not asking too much,” Doyle said.

Other Democratic task force members deemed the report incomplete since it didn’t include legislation that would create a process for courts to temporarily disarm people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

“With the alarming increase of suicide rates here in Wisconsin, it is egregious that the Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention chose not to move forward with such a critical piece of suicide prevention legislation,” Reps. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison; Deb Kolste, D-Janesville; Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg; and Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement.

The task force also recommended the Joint Finance Committee release $110,000 in annual funding to support a text-based suicide prevention program run by the Center for Suicide Awareness in Kaukauna. The funding was included in the state’s budget, which gave the committee say over its release.

Ballweg and Doyle asked the committee to release the money Wednesday,

The task force recommended legislation that would:

  • provide $250,000 annually to the Department of Health Services for a suicide prevention program.
  • provide $500,000 biennially to support local suicide prevention coalitions.
  • provide $150,000 biennially to organizations that train gun shop staff on not selling firearms to those who are considering suicide, provide suicide prevention materials at firearm retailers or ranges, and provide voluntary gun storage.
  • provide $250,000 annually to schools for peer-to-peer support programs.
  • provide $270,000 over the current biennium for the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy Schools Center, which provides training to schools.
  • include the telephone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline on student ID cards.
  • provide $100,000 biennially for farmer tuition assistance grants to support low-income farmers enrolling in technical college courses on farm and business management techniques.
    create interim licenses for those who satisfy the requirements for being a psychologist other than the requirement of 2,000 hours of supervised experience.
  • require doctors, social workers and other counselors to complete two hours of suicide prevention continuing education every two years.

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