As a first-term senator, there were a lot of things I needed to learn. One of them was the problem with the suicide rate in Idaho. Idaho is the fourth-leading state in suicides per capita. It quickly became apparent to this first-term senator that this issue needed to be at the top of my list.
It can be argued that the state shouldn’t be spending money on suicide prevention, but it is, and there is no significant legislative appetite to nix the funding in view of the problem we have. With this important issue weighing heavily on the minds of those in our communities, as elected leaders we have to intervene. We have had suicide prevention in the past, so my question is: Why aren’t we being more successful?
I asked that question during budget hearings last year. As it turns out, Idaho didn’t have a strategy for suicide prevention with measurable outcomes. The only strategy given for combating the suicide issue was that agencies were “working hard.” To me, that was simply unacceptable.
We were spending taxpayer money, with no real accountability other than to just try. In my view, working hard and trying are assumptions. Measurable outcomes should be required if taxpayer money is spent.
I devised a plan to only fund suicide prevention in Idaho if a plan was developed to include all partners working on suicide prevention. Further, the development of this plan would be paid for with private money as part of a partnership with the state. This plan must include measurable outcomes and quantifiable objectives. That plan was due for review at the end of the summer.
Needless to say, these requirements attached to the funding of this program were met with significant trepidation by agency staff. However, the Legislature stood strong on this, and it was approved.
It is my hope that by forming a strategy for result-oriented efforts from government, we will no longer be spending taxpayer dollars in vain. Instead, we will have concrete proof that our efforts inside the Capitol are helping to save lives of Idahoans. Join me in looking forward to the positive changes ahead, and I look forward to reviewing the plan in the coming weeks to find a solution to this crisis.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to 741741, the Crisis Text Line.