PRYOR, OK — Pryor Times
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation authorizing school boards to adopt policies concerning suicide awareness and training, and the reporting of student drug abuse, was signed into law.
House Bill 1623 by Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, and Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, allows training for teachers and students in grades 7 through 12 into how to recognize danger signals and prevent suicide. The state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMHSAS) “shall develop and make available to school districts” the curriculum, at no cost to the schools, HB 1623 provides.
Oklahoma has the 13th highest suicide rate, per capita, in the nation, Floyd said. In comparison, Texas ranks 41st. “We also are higher than Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri,” she said.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death nationwide among young people 10 to 24 years of age, Floyd said. In Oklahoma, 111 young people in that age group died by their own hands in 2012, and 91 killed themselves in 2011, State Health Department records reflect.
Oklahoma's suicide rate increased 20 percent from 2004 through 2010, Floyd added. Suicide is the most common manner of violent death in this state, the Health Department reports. There are 2? times more suicides than homicides, data show.
Starting with the 2014-15 school year, every school district in the state may offer a suicide awareness and prevention training program selected from a list maintained by the DMHSAS. HB 1623 says that school districts may contract with designated youth services agencies to provide suicide intervention and prevention services locally.
The suicide awareness and prevention training “shall not be construed to impose any specific duty of care,” the legislation states.
Nevertheless, the measure also decrees that upon determining that a student is at risk of attempting suicide, school teachers, administrators and counselors must notify the youth’s parents/guardians immediately.
The bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and was signed Wednesday by the governor. “Having the13th highest rate of suicide in the nation is unacceptable,” Floyd said. “I am grateful to the members of both legislative chambers and to the Governor for acknowledging the seriousness of this issue and supporting this measure.”
Floyd is a founding member and vice president of the board of directors for the Justice Alma Wilson SeeWorth Academy, which was established in 1998 and serves 485 at-risk youth in Oklahoma City.