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Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Suicide Prevention bill (HB 139) passed the House today unanimously with 114 votes!

The Suicide Prevention bill (HB 139) passed the House today unanimously with 114 votes!  The Senate bill (SB 224) still needs to go through the Health and Human Services Appropriations committee. Any of you that can please send an email to Senator Peaden and the members of the Senate committee asking them to please put it on their agenda. 

Below are two related news articles (one article and one editorial). 

The Florida Times-Union

March 29, 2007

Crist rethinks suicide program, says he'll keep it

Capital Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE - As lawmakers start finalizing a new, $71 billion state budget, a $150,000 suicide prevention program is hanging in the balance that Duval County suicide advocates consider key to helping the county lower its high number of suicides.

Gov. Charlie Crist said Wednesday he will reverse his decision last week to eliminate the proposed program within the state Office of Drug Control, which would fund two full-time employees dedicated to spreading counseling, education and early intervention services statewide. Crist had tweaked his original $71.2 proposed budget to reflect a pessimistic revenue outlook by a state revenue estimating panel this month.

"We're going to revisit that," Crist said.

Statewide, suicides far outpaced homicides, by more than a 2-to-1 ratio. There were 2,308 suicides in 2005, compared with 988 homicides.

Sen. Jim King, Northeast Florida's senior legislator and a longtime advocate of suicide prevention funding, called that good news.

"I would hope that the governor, knowing how many Floridians commit suicide every year, would recognize the importance of continuing this funding," said King, R-Jacksonville. "If we can stop one suicide, it's worth the small amount of money that would come out of our budget."

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, is pushing legislation to fund the suicide prevention program in Crist's office.

Duval County had 124 suicides in 2005, the most recent year for which state statistics were available, putting the county sixth behind Hillsborough at 128, Palm Beach at 146, Pinellas at 154, Broward at 176 and Miami-Dade County at 194. A Jacksonville police officer fatally shot himself Tuesday in a case that remains under investigation.

Crist's possible reversal was also welcome news to Pam Harrington of Ponte Vedra Beach, whose 15-year-old daughter, Beth, committed suicide in 1997. Harrington and her husband, Bob, have launched a foundation in their daughter's memory to spread information about suicide and met with former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000 to help Bush launch a suicide prevention task force. The former governor was a consistent supporter of suicide prevention programs, because an old friend of his committed suicide.

Pam Harrington said government-funded suicide education is critical, since the topic remains an uncomfortable topic for most people to discuss on their own.

"This is an issue we should be at the forefront of," Harrington said. "Suicide crosses all demographic lines. It affects everyone. And we need leadership at the state and local level that addresses it.", (850) 224-7515

This story can be found on at

The Florida Times-Union

March 29, 2007

SUICIDE: Emphasize prevention

Money talks, they say.

Unfortunately, Gov. Charlie Crist's new budget was talking gibberish, at least for a moment.

Crist promised to fulfill the legacy of Gov. Jeb Bush.

One of Bush's important projects was to establish a suicide prevention office in the Office of Drug Control.

That proposal kept getting shot down in the Florida Legislature, despite support from Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, among others.

Then, the St. Petersburg Times reported that the governor's budget did not even include the $150,000 for suicide prevention.

Meanwhile, he wants to spend $222,000 on public relations.

Now, it appears the suicide prevention funds may be restored in the budget.

And a scathing editorial can be toned down.

Unfortunately, these missed opportunities are all too common in the field of suicide prevention.

Twice as many Floridians die from suicide than from homicide. Even more tragically, suicide is largely preventable.

It affects every strata of society. The highest suicide rate is among the elderly.

For the young, suicide takes more lives than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined.

Though the act of suicide is often sudden, the event usually is foreshadowed by untreated mental illness.

But too few people are trained to recognize the signs.

Florida's official suicide prevention strategy includes a basket of tools, including increased awareness, better screening and better access to treatment.

It deserves a few people to help coordinate these efforts, a token commitment for suicide prevention.

We're talking about preventing the unnecessary loss of human lives, a project that deserves the highest priority from the state. The value of saving a human life? Priceless.

This story can be found on at

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