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Lawmakers Question State's Plan For Suicide Prevention Among Native Americans

Sen. Kristin Hansen (R) SD-14.
Montana Legislature

State lawmakers are criticizing the state health department’s plan for how to address the high suicide rate among Montana’s young Native Americans.

State Senator Kristin Hansen says suicide is a complicated problem that will not be solved by bureaucracy.

"It’s not a government program solution. It’s a situation where willing caring people build relationships with hurting people."

The Havre Republican is a member of the State-Tribal Relations Committee. That’s the legislature’s liaison with Montana’s tribal governments.

It wants the state health department to reconsider its plan to hire a contractor to form a coalition to develop a strategic suicide prevention plan. This would use almost half of $250,000 the state legislature set aside last year for the prevention plan.

Senator Kristin Hansen:

“We as a committee decided that a $100,000 expenditure on a contractor was a bad idea, and we’d rather see those fund go directly to preexisting programs.”

It appears the hiring process for the contractor has not yet begun.

State health department officials settled on that option because there was little to no consensus among Montana’s tribal nations on how to best use the funds.

In a written statement this week, the health department says it received the committee’s feedback and will respond in the near future.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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