Runestad bill would address skyrocketing suicide rates

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad introduced a measure Tuesday that would address the disturbing trend of the increasing suicide rate in the state.

Runestad said it’s a huge problem. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan’s suicide rate increased by 32.9 percent from 1999 to 2016.

Senate Bill 228 would create a commission to study the causes and underlying factors of suicide in Michigan.

“The increase in the number of suicides in Michigan and nationally is alarming,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “We need to find out why this is happening, so we can properly address it. This bill will do just that by creating a commission to study the issue.”

SB 228 would create the Suicide Prevention Commission within the Legislative Council. The 25-member commission would study the causes and underlying factors related to suicide and provide recommendations for state coordination on suicide prevention data collection and a coordinated state approach to the prevention of suicide.

Under the bill, the commission would:
• Work with state departments and agencies and nonprofit organization to study the causes and possible underlying factors of suicide in Michigan. The study would focus on demographics showing the highest suicide rates in the state in the prior decade and the highest growth in suicide rates;
• By Jan. 1, 2020, prepare and present a report of its findings and recommendation to the Legislature;
• By June 1, 2021, prepare and present to the Legislature any updates to the report;
• Annually review and update any recommendations; and
• Provide recommendations for state coordination on suicide prevention data collection and a coordinated state approach to the prevention of suicide.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10- to 18-year-olds nationally; it is a public health crisis,” Runestad said. “Since there currently is no coordinated effort in the state to understand the risk factors, underlying causes and changing trends in suicide across demographics, we need to join other states that have created suicide prevention commissions that help get to the root causes of the crisis.”

SB 228 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services.