TRENTON, NJ - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican members Mary Pat Angelini and Dave Rible calling for the development and implementation of a statewide youth suicide program was unanimously approved today by the General Assembly.

            “Adolescent suicide is heartbreaking. The devastation it leaves in its wake for family members and the school community can be unbearable, “ stated Angelini, R-Monmouth. “The real tragedy is there are resources available to these youngsters who feel hopeless and helpless. While New Jersey currently operates three crisis centers as part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network, we can and must do better. Education, data sharing and greater public awareness of this mental health issue is key.”

            Angelini and Rible were prompted to sponsor the legislation following a troubling trend of youth suicides.

            “Most importantly, a call for help to save a life should be handled in a responsive manner,” explained Rible, R-Monmouth. “This legislation will result in a more efficient and effective program. Youngsters calling a suicide lifeline are reaching out for help. In such a desperate situation he or she should have access to a counselor they can talk to and receive immediate information regarding New Jersey-specific prevention services and resources.”

            A report by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline showed that from August 2009 through July 2010, 60 percent of New Jersey’s crisis calls were answered by Lifeline crisis counselors in other states, primarily New York and Nebraska.

            The Angelini/Rible bill, A-3659, requires the Commissioner of Children and Families, in consultation with the Department of Human Services, and the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council, to develop and adopt a statewide youth suicide prevention plan within 180 days after the effective date of the bill.

Specifically, the plan must address the:

  • ·identification of existing State and local sources of data concerning youth suicide deaths,
  • ·youth suicide attempts, and self inflicted injuries by youth;
  • ·coordination and sharing of such data among identified State and local sources;
  • ·promotion of greater public awareness about youth suicide prevention services and resources;
  • ·identification of barriers to accessing mental health and substance abuse services, and opportunities to enhance access;
  • ·promotion of evidenced-based and best practice programs, listed on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s Best Practices Registry, for the prevention and treatment of youth suicide and self injury.

            Angelini is the executive director of a non-profit organization which promotes healthy, safe and drug-free youth.