Senate panel adopts Runestad bill addressing skyrocketing suicide rates

LANSING, Mich. — A Senate committee on Thursday approved a measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Runestad that would address the disturbing trend of the increasing suicide rate in the state.

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

“The information on the troubling increase in the number of suicides is alarming,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “We need to take a comprehensive, data-driven approach to turn this epidemic around.

“The Suicide Prevention Commission established by Senate Bill 228 will bring together state resources to compile data and develop a statewide action plan.”

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

SB 228 would create the Suicide Prevention Commission within the Legislative Council. The 25-member commission would consist of unpaid members who 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. The committee would dissolve in 2026.

Under the bill, the commission would:
• Work with state departments and agencies and nonprofit organizations to study the causes and possible underlying factors of suicide in Michigan;
• 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 34-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 now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.