Bipartisan legislation empowers tribes in suicide prevention efforts

From Senator Tester’s Office 

KALISPELL — To recognize Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is working with Republicans and Democrats to combat the growing suicide epidemic in Indian Country.

Tester is sponsoring the bipartisan Native American Suicide Prevention Act, which will ensure collaboration between states and tribes on the development and implementation of statewide suicide intervention and prevention strategies. Tester’s bill will empower tribes to develop culturally relevant initiatives that respond to the unique needs of tribal communities, who are often disproportionately impacted by this epidemic.

“We need all hands on deck when it comes to preventing suicide and giving our neighbors in Indian Country the life-saving resources they deserve,” Tester said. “This bipartisan bill gives Montana’s tribes a much-needed seat at the table to fight this crisis head on. We have got to work together to support Native Americans and ensure they have access to the resources they need.”

The suicide rate among Native Americans was 22 percent higher than the state average from 2005-14, according to the Department of Public Health and Human Services.  Montana’s suicide rate is the highest in the United States and nearly double the national average.

Native Americans have the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group in the United States, and Native American youth are far more likely to commit suicide than their non-Native peers, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a member of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee, Tester has fought relentlessly for additional suicide prevention resources in Indian Country.

He secured $3.68 million to fund a successful suicide prevention initiative for young tribal members on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and deliveredan additional $50,000 for mental health services on the Flathead Reservation.

Tester’s Native American Suicide Prevention Act is supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, Association on American Indian Affairs, and the National Council on Urban Indian Health.

Tester last week challenged the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to deploy more resources to address the high suicide rates of America’s veterans.

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