07.22.19

FOLLOWING SEVERE UPTICK OF SUICIDE DEATHS IN CENTRAL NY & NATIONWIDE, SCHUMER LAUNCHES THREE-PRONGED PLAN TO COMBAT THE DEVASTATING TREND; POINTING TO THE HIGHEST SUICIDE RATE IN DECADES, SCHUMER SAYS ALL-HANDS-ON-DECK ARE NEEDED TO REACH MORE PEOPLE IN PAIN & SAVE PRECIOUS LIVES

According To Recent CDC Data, The National Suicide Rate Is Up 33% Since 1999, NYS Average Suicide Rate is 8.1 Per 100K People With Onondaga County Suffering At A Staggering Rate Of 10.3 Suicide Deaths Per 100K People

Despite Jaw-Dropping Trend Of Tragic Deaths, Feds Have Yet To Pony Up Sufficient Resources For Prevention Programs That People Turn To In Darkest Of Times; Senator Says If We Ramp Up Funding, We Can Stem The Tide Of Tragedy

Schumer: CNY’ers Are Calling Out For A Lifeline –The Feds Need To Lead & Extend The Hand, Now

Standing at Liberty Resources in Syracuse, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a three-pronged plan to address the severe uptick of suicide deaths across Central New York and the United States. Schumer explained that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate has spiked by 33% in the last 20 years, reaching its highest level since World War II. Schumer said that Syracuse and Central New York have been devastated by the prevalence of suicide in the region, with multiple high-profile stories in Onondaga County in recent months and the county having a suicide rate of 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people, above the New York State average of 8.1 per 100,000 people. Schumer cited the alarming statistics on suicide as he made the case for a new federal focus and ramp-up of suicide prevention dollars for crucial federal programs like the “Zero Suicide” initiative, which has had success locally, and for the passage of legislation that would increase the amount of trained mental health primary care doctors in areas like Central New York.

“Recent tragedies in Syracuse and the above-average rate of suicide in Onondaga County cry out for more effective action at all levels of government to respond to this troubling trend. It is clear that suicide has become a mental health crisis we can’t afford to ignore, requiring an all-hands-on-deck approach to solve,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I’m launching a three-pronged plan to reduce the nation’s suicide rate, which is higher than it’s been since World War II, by boosting federal money for localities to offer new treatment and services to those at risk; increasing the number of trained mental health primary care physicians in areas like Onondaga County; and expanding federal resources that protect our youth, the most vulnerable among us. We must ramp up suicide prevention efforts across the board and extend the hand of the federal government to the communities, caregivers and families coping with such a painful problem.”

Schumer explained that according to a June report from the CDC, the national suicide rate was 33% higher in 2017 than it was in 1999, at a rate of 14 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. Throughout 2017, a total of 47,173 Americans died by suicide, well above 2016’s recorded total of 44,695. Meanwhile, a 2018 report from the CDC shows a 28.8% increase in the New York State suicide rate between 1999 and 2016, and that one New Yorker takes their own life every five hours. Additionally, Schumer pointed to Onondaga County’s above New York average suicide rate of 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people as proof positive that the issue requires all-hands-on-deck in Central New York. According to the county, 248 residents committed suicide between 2013 and 2017, coming out to an average of 49 per year.

The CDC says suicide is rarely caused by a single factor and that suicide prevention efforts largely focus on identifying and supporting people at risk. However, Schumer revealed today that the federal funding for these types of programs has been insufficient for years, despite the rising rate of suicide nationwide and in Onondaga County, specifically. So, to address these climbing numbers, Schumer launched a three-pronged push to secure boosted federal funding for two federal suicide prevention programs, which he argued should then be sent to Central New York, and to pass legislation that would boost the number of mental health doctors in underserved areas like Onondaga County.

First, Schumer called on his colleagues in Congress to increase funding for suicide prevention, including the relatively new federal ‘Zero Suicide’ program, which was established in 2017 under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and has had success in Onondaga County. This initiative is tasked with empowering health care providers with the tools and training to identify, engage and treat those suffering with conditions that lead to suicidal ideation. Schumer explained that in recent years, New York State received $3.5 million over 5 years from the federal Zero Suicide program and used the funding to establish a local Zero Suicide program in Onondaga County as a partnership between NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH), Liberty Resources and Onondaga County. Since then, the program has been a major boon to the county, giving those suffering access to new types of treatments and services. Last year, the Zero Suicide program received $9.2 million in federal funding and Schumer called for a significant increase in funding for Fiscal Year 2020. Additionally, Schumer called for an increase in funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has been a crucial tool in suicide prevention efforts and crisis intervention services. Comprised of a network of 164 centers, this 24/7 Lifeline has helped to comfort individuals with suicidal thoughts and connect them with appropriate emergency, mental health, and social services.

Next, Schumer launched a new push to pass his Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, which would significantly boost the number of Medicare-supported residency training spots for mental health doctors. Schumer called the legislation particularly critical as it relates to the spiking suicide rate, due to the lack of mental health and primary care doctors that are properly trained to diagnose and treat conditions that can lead to an increased likelihood of suicide. Schumer explained the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act would create residency spots specifically for mental health and primary doctors, to improve treatment and diagnosis in areas like Onondaga County. Schumer added that people who attempt suicide are often not seeing a mental health professional. Therefore, in addition to training more mental health providers, it is also critical to expand the number of primary care doctors and train those doctors on how to identify those at risk of suicide.

Schumer also launched a push to secure additional federal funding for the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Suicide Prevention State Grants, which have been funded at $35.27 million since 2013 and are used to focus on youth suicide prevention. The grants are named after Sen. Gordon Smith’s son, who was lost to suicide in 2003. This federal pot of dollars includes $23 million that can be used by states like New York in a variety of ways—from mental health counseling to outreach on college campuses and in communities. It also includes $12 million for prevention and public health activities such as education and counseling. Schumer said that in 2015, 18% of high school students seriously considered committing suicide, significantly up from 14% in 2009, underlining the need to support the GLS grant program as robustly as possible. In July, New York State received a $3.68 million GLS grant to support the implementation of youth prevention and treatment services in clinical, school, higher education and community-based settings.

According to the CDC, states and communities can do the following things to help combat this rise in suicide, but Schumer said these things, the kind of outreach below, requires robust federal investment:

  • Identify and support people at risk of suicide.
  • Teach coping and problem-solving skills to help people manage challenges with their relationships, jobs, health or other concerns.
  • Promote safe and supportive environments. This includes safely storing medications and firearms to reduce access among people at risk.
  • Offer activities that bring people together so they feel connected and not alone.
  • Connect people at risk to effective and coordinated mental and physical healthcare.
  • Expand options for temporary help for those struggling to make ends meet.

Schumer called out Congress’ inadequate action regarding the issue of suicide in the United States, saying it demands attention given the clear public health crisis detailed by the latest suicide rates. Schumer pledged to implore his colleagues in Congress to heed this new warning and combat suicide deaths with resources that allow caregivers and other professionals to reach more people in pain and potentially save lives. Schumer said Central New Yorkers and Americans across the country are calling out for a lifeline and that the feds need to lead, now. 

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