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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bills Would Bolster Suicide Prevention Programs In Montana Schools

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell (D) - HD84
Montana Legislature

HELENA — Two new bills in the Montana Legislature aim to address suicide prevention for Montana’s youth.

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, is sponsoring House Bills 186 and 187, which would offer $2.5 million in grants to schools for mental health screening and suicide prevention training. Dunwell said the request for state funding might bring some resistance from lawmakers, but the programs are necessary to continue to prevent suicide.

“We need to make this investment,” she said. “Our values are reflected in what we spend our money on.”

The bills are based on studies and recommendations by the Department of Health and Human Services. DPHHS’s report on suicide in Montana, which was published in August 2018, found Montana’s youth suicide rates are almost triple the national average. Dunwell said under the bills, schools would screen children as young as 11 years old.

“We need suicide prevention for young people. Not one more young life lost,” she said.

The bills are scheduled for public hearings in the House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday.

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.

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