Senate sends Runestad’s suicide commission bill to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed 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.

“Suicide devastates family and friends, and the rise in suicides in the state and nationally is shocking,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “More data on this epidemic needs to be gathered before we can turn this trend around.

“That is one of the reasons for Senate Bill 228. The commission will bring experts and resources together to develop an action plan to make a real difference for families and the most vulnerable in our community.”

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

SB 228 would create the Suicide Prevention Commission within the Legislative Council. The 27-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 2024.

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;
• Within six months, prepare and present a preliminary report of its findings and recommendations to the Legislature;
• Within one year, prepare an updated report including information on existing evidence-based programs for suicide prevention in the state with successful outcomes;
• Annually review and update any recommendations; and
• Provide a process for state coordination on suicide prevention after the commission dissolves.

“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 governor to be signed into law.