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Bill Now Poised for Final Legislative Approval

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle paving the way for the creation of a statewide plan to address youth suicide prevention was advanced by a Senate panel on Monday, sending it on its way for final legislative approval.

“This is about protecting our children from themselves by ensuring that we have the necessary resources readily available for young people and their families to access in a time of crisis,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “My goal is to ensure that we save as many lives as possible.”

This bill (A-3659) would require the Commissioner of Children and Families (DCF), in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services and the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council, to develop and adopt a statewide youth suicide prevention plan within 180 days of the bill’s enactment.

Specifically, the plan would be required to:

– Identify existing state and local Dests of data concerning youth suicide deaths, youth suicide attempts, and self-inflicted injuries by youths;

– Coordinate and share this data among identified state and local sources;

– Promote greater public awareness about youth suicide prevention services and reDests;

– Identify barriers to accessing mental health and substance abuse services, as well as opportunities to enhance this access; and

– Promote evidenced-based and best practice programs, listed on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s Best Practices Registry, for the prevention and treatment of youth suicide and self-injury.

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, there are more than 140 crisis centers that currently participate in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. Each center receives calls from designated areas of the country, and calls are routed to the closest available crisis center.

New Jersey operates three crisis centers in the Lifeline network: CONTACT We Care in Westfield, CONTACT of Mercer County in Ewing, and CONTACT of Burlington County in Moorestown. However, an August 2010 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline report stated that from August 2009 through July 2010, 60 percent of New Jersey’s crisis calls were answered by Lifeline crisis counselors in other states, primarily New York and Nebraska, who likely do not have access to specific information regarding New Jersey’s youth suicide prevention services and resources.

“It’s crucial that our suicide prevention resources are easily accessible and fully equipped to direct youths in crisis to the appropriate support service. In a critical moment, having the right person available with the right knowledge can mean the difference in a life saved,” added Vainieri Huttle.

Additionally, the bill would require the commissioner of DCF to review the department’s grant application procedures to ensure that grant applications submitted by the department for youth suicide prevention initiatives are completed accurately and in a timely manner. Further, the bill would require the commissioner of DCF to give thorough consideration and, where appropriate, apply for grants from the federal government, and contributions and donations from other public or private sources as may be used for the purposes of the bill.

The Commissioners of Human Services and Children and Families, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, would prepare a report reviewing the effectiveness and sufficiency of services provided by the New Jersey-based suicide prevention hotlines, and transmit the report to the Governor and the Legislature, no later than 12 months after the effective date of this bill.

The bill passed the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today and now heads to the full Senate for final legislative approval.