SOUTHERN COLORADO — Colorado lawmakers are proposing a bill aimed at reducing the number of suicide deaths in the state.
House Bill 21-1119 broadens the state's priorities and focus on suicide and suicide attempts and the after-effects of those actions on family, friends, health care providers, and school districts.
Growing up in a rural community, Liliana Flanigan says youth suicide had always been a problem. Five years ago, one death, in particular, prompted her to take a hard look at the issue.
"The response from the school and district was horrendous. People were barred from talking about it, students couldn't talk about it, teachers and administrators couldn't talk about it," said Flanigan.
She says the situation made it hard for her peers to grieve and process what happened.
"When it happens, it affects the community as a whole even if you don't know the student. Having some sort of connection or watching your community grieve and lose somebody that was a fixture is difficult," said Flanigan
Leading several students to demand change.
"A group of students who came before me basically went to the district and said this is not how you should be handling this. It's harming us rather than helping and this is a time when we need help," said Flanigan.
She says their call to action paved the way for more teacher and student resources. It also sparked a conversation on how schools could better support suicide prevention.
"Suicide is a huge issue throughout the nation and statewide, The entire state needs to make sure they are supporting their students," said Flanigan.
According to the bill, suicide is the leading cause of death for school-aged children in the state. Children who know about a friend or classmate's attempt are twice as likely to attempt suicide themselves within a year.
"We heard a lot of testimony from the students who just want something to do when this happens and a way to get through this," said Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, (D) Arvada.
To help save lives, the bill would require the state to rename the "Office of Suicide Prevention" to the "Office of Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention." It would also rename the "Suicide Prevention Commission" to the "Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention" which would expand to include training and education for health care providers, first-responders, and educators.
The bill would also expand a grant program to have intervention and postvention services.
"We created a grant program so that high school students can bring in training programs that are peer-to-peer training. We keep hearing that kids want to know how they can talk to another youth who's suffering from that situation," said Daugherty.
Public schools and school districts without previous crisis or suicide prevention will be prioritized for the grants.
Flanigan says she hopes the bill sparks similar pieces of legislation in other states.