CONCORD — The state Senate on Thursday defeated a bill on suicide prevention promoted by Gov. Chris Sununu in his inaugural address, opting instead to unanimously pass a more ambitious bill.
The Jason Flatt Act, with bills by that name in both House and Senate, requires every teacher, supervisor and administrator in the public schools to receive at least two hours of training in suicide awareness and prevention annually.
Senate Bill 282, which passed the Senate and now heads to the House, extends that training to additional personnel, including students and school volunteers, and requires school districts to adopt a coordinated suicide prevention plan.
“Training shall occur within the first year for newly hired faculty and staff, and every three years thereafter. The training shall be accomplished within the framework of existing in-service training programs or offered as part of ongoing professional development activities,” according to the bill.
Sununu cited youth suicide prevention as a major policy initiative in his inaugural address earlier this year, touting the Jason Flatt Act.
Anguished parents and siblings of suicide victims testified in legislative hearings as to why they think the initiative is necessary.
SB 282 was endorsed by Connor’s Climb Foundation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, NAMI-NH and other groups.
“We believe that true success with suicide prevention can only happen if the students have the tools to prevent suicide too. Our foundation has provided suicide education free to over 60 New Hampshire schools, and is committed to putting it in any school that will implement the program,” according to Tara Holmes Ball, board president for Connors Climb, a suicide prevention group.
“The Flatt Act is a good start but just a Band-Aid, and you cannot fix a broken bone with a Band-Aid.”
SB 282 had bipartisan support in the Senate, with 16 Senate co-sponsors.
“I am pleased the Senate Education Committee was able to work together on the two suicide prevention bills and come up with a consensus on the best way to fight against this tragic epidemic,” said Sen. Ruth Ward, R- Stoddard.