April 28: Voice of the (Anchorage) Times on suicide prevention:

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2001

Sen. Rick Halford has introduced legislation aimed at reducing the number of suicides in Alaska. Hopefully, it will get quick action in the Legislature.

The Chugiak Republican's bill would establish a 15-member suicide prevention council that would be charged with looking for ways to reduce the number of suicides in Alaska and report to the governor each March.

The need is obvious and critical.

The state's suicide rate is about twice the national average. State health officials say 10 young people killed themselves in the Mat-Su area alone between January of last year and February of this year. Increases also were reported in the western part of the state.

The council would be composed of two members each from the House and Senate, and 11 appointments by the governor -- including a person touched by suicide and someone younger than 18. To address the problem, the council first would determine its scope, and come up with suggested solutions.

Eventually, the council would craft and implement a statewide suicide prevention plan.

With the tragic and apparently growing number of suicides in Alaska, this legislation comes not a moment too soon.

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