By; Mary Shinn, Durango Herald

May 8, 2018

One measure to fund suicide prevention in schools failed in the Colorado Senate this week, but a similar measure could win approval before the state’s legislative session ends today.

State Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, backed the measures aimed at creating grant programs for schools to introduce suicide prevention programs. SB18-272 is pending in the House.

McLachlan sponsored the Senate bill, along with three other lawmakers. It calls for setting aside $400,000 in grant funding for public schools to implement crisis and suicide-prevention training for staff. A similar suicide-prevention measure that would have set aside funding for both educators and staff failed Monday in the Senate.

“We’re doing something, and it’s never enough. But we are at least trying,” McLachlan said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for teens in Colorado, and those who grow up in rural areas of the state are twice as likely to die by suicide as their peers in urban areas.

Many schools across the state don’t have the money, time or staff to introduce new suicide-prevention measures, said Andrew Romanoff, president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado.

“We have heard from schools across the state; they are desperate to do something,” he said.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office is funding a study to assess teen suicide rates in La Plata County, which has one of the highest rates in the state.

Sarah Brummett, director of the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention, said the results will likely be available in June, and she expects the report will show a number of factors are contributing to the high rates.

Any strategies to address suicide in the community must involve teens, she said.

“We’ll never see success until they are at the table as leaders,” she said.

Pueblo, El Paso and Mesa counties also were selected to participate in the study.

Story originally appeared in the Durango Herald.