Legislators shaft suicide prevention programs again

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The 2014 session of the New Mexico Legislature ended today with lawmakers once again failing to fund suicide prevention programs tailored to Native American youth.

House Bill 61, which never made it out of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, would have given $300,000 to the Human Services Department (HSD) to fund three culturally-based Native American youth suicide prevention initiatives focused on suicide prevention, intervention, and post-event assistance for Native Americans living in rural, frontier and urban communities.

For the fourth consecutive year, legislators also did not add that money to the budget bill or any other legislation.

Just over $100,000 is in the budget to fund work being done by a clearinghouse housed at the University of New Mexico. Established by the Legislature in 2011, that project aims to connect people from the state’s diverse Native American communities with culturally appropriate suicide prevention programs — programs such as those the $300,000 request would have funded.

The budget awaits action by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The rate of suicide among Native American youth in the state is nearly four times the national rate among all 15-24 year olds, according to a recent report from the state’s Health Department.

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