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Nine Suicide-Related Bills At Montana Legislature This Year

Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy (D), HD-32.
Mike Albans

A group of bills moving through the Montana legislature aim to address the state’s high suicide rate. Legislation introduced on Monday would fund grants in Native American communities, where the suicide rate among kids is more than five times higher than it is statewide.

Jonathan Windy Boy, a Democrat from Box Elder, says his bill would establish the ‘American Indian and Rural Youth Suicide Prevention Pilot Grant Program’.

When he testified in front of the House Appropriations committee, Monday, Windy Boy held up a news article about a young woman from his community who committed suicide in  November.

“We’re all touched by suicide, one way or another. And this young girl is my granddaughter,” Windy Boys said. 

Windy Boy’s bill would appropriate $250,000 from the general fund to the Department of Health and Human Services for suicide prevention efforts for Native and rural kids.

Chair of the House Appropriations Committee Nancy Ballance, a Republican from Hamilton, says by her count there are nine bills in the legislature this session aiming to increase  suicide prevention efforts in the state.

She says the bills might have better success getting through the legislature, and be more effective in helping people, if they’re bundled together as one large effort organized by the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

“We need a comprehensive suicide plan across the state to deal with this situation, we’ve been at this point for a long, long time,” Ballance says.

Montana does have a statewide suicide prevention plan. But, Ballance says the plan’s efforts in the legislature need to be better organized.

The Appropriations Committee didn’t vote on Representative Windy Boy’s bill during its hearing Monday.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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