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Bill aimed at reducing teen suicides has bipartisan support

Posted at 9:50 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-07 00:30:55-05

PHOENIX — A group of Arizona lawmakers have teamed up with grieving families to propose a bill that would help prevent teen suicides in the state. This comes after statistics show 88 teenagers died by suicide in the last two years in Arizona.

Senate Bill 1468, which was just introduced by a 14 lawmakers this week, has bipartisan and bicameral support.

It states that beginning in school year 2020-2021, school districts and charter schools would provide training in suicide prevention for school guidance counselors, teachers, principals, and other school personnel who work with pupils in grades 6-12.

Arizona teen suicide prevention: What is being done?

The East Valley has experienced a cluster of teen suicides in the last two years. Sheila Hedstrom-Pelger's son Tyler was one of those teens. Tyler's mother, Sheila Hedstrom-Pelger, says she had no idea her son was in anguish. He was part of a band and was passionate about his music.

"I found out after Ty died that he had been crying at school. A phone call to me from his teachers would have been awesome. Or they could have sent him to a counselor," said Hedstrom-Pelger.

Other parents who have also lost their children to suicide said they wondered if teachers at school may have missed warning signs of teens who suffered silently.

"Our children spend most of their time at school in front of their teachers, we need their eyes watching our kids took," said LeAnn Hull, a West Valley mother who had lost her child Andy Hull to suicide. "This is happening right in your school district. In your neighborhood. Your home. It is just child after child that has passed for us to become aware."

State Representative Jeff Weninger from District 17 in Chandler is one of the lawmakers who supports the bill.

"We have teachers on the front lines who spend most of their time with our kids--they should be able to get this very important training," said Weninger.

The training would be a part of the continuing education and professional development programs that teachers go through consistently. Currently a voluntary part of the training, the bill would make it mandatory.

The bill requires all school staff who deal with children to get training in suicide prevention and training to identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior in adolescents and teenagers.

The training curriculum would be developed by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment system, the state's Medicaid agency.

There is a hearing scheduled to take place next Tuesday.