Legislative budget writers overwhelmingly backed a budget for public health services under the state Department of Health & Welfare this morning that includes $971,100 in state funds and 4 new positions to carry out the state’s suicide prevention plan. It’s a long-sought move that includes a coordinated approach to suicide prevention in Idaho, from $223,000 a year in ongoing funding for the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline to funding for youth programming, a public awareness campaign, training and more.
Idaho had the 9th highest suicide rate in the country in 2014, 46 percent higher than the national average. Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for Idahoans age 15-34 and for males age 10-14 in 2014. In 2015, one in five Idaho youth attending public schools reported seriously considering suicide; 9.8 percent said they’d made at least one suicide attempt.
The budget, proposed by Sens. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, and Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, passed on a 17-1 vote, with just Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, dissenting. The bill still needs passage in the House and Senate and the governor’s signature to become law, but budget bills rarely change once they’re set by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. The budget shows a 14.5 percent increase in state funds, but just a 2.4 percent increase in total funds.