Gus Bilirakis Champions Suicide Prevention Bills on Capitol Hill

Last week, at a meeting of the U.S. House Health Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., showcased suicide prevention and mental health access bills.

At the meeting, Bilirakis brought out the “Effective Suicide Screening in the Emergency Department Act” back in October. The bill “helps to create protocols for identifying, assessing and treating individuals in the E.R. who may be at risk for suicide.” The bill has the backing of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., in the U.S. Senate. U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, is cosponsoring the measure as are eight other House members.

Bilirakis also focused on the “STANDUP Act” which “encourages schools to expand evidence-based suicide prevention training in schools.” The Florida Republican also showcased the “Mental Health Parity Enforcement Act” which “would hold insurance companies accountable if they fail to adhere to existing law which requires parity in coverage for mental and physical health conditions.”

After the meeting, Bilirakis weighed in on the bills.

“There is no higher priority than keeping our children safe.  By providing high quality screening and prevention training to school staff and peers, we can identify threats before they materialize, and ensure that those who are at risk get the mental health treatment they need.  Sadly, some communities in my district are among those with the highest suicide rates in our state. With training like this, we can help reverse that troubling trend,” said Bilirakis.

“Consideration of these bills could not come at a more pressing time. The pandemic and resulting economic downturn have impacted the mental health and well-being of many Americans. It is vital that we ensure access to appropriate tools to assist those in need.  I urge my colleagues to join me in expediting passage of these bills through the legislative process,” he added.

Bilirakis is also backing U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart’s, R-Utah, “National Suicide Hotline Designation Act” which makes 988 a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.

At the end of last year, Bilirakis and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis requesting the state of Florida’s assistance to improve the accuracy of data on veterans mortality and life expectancy.

Crist and Bilirakis asked that the state of Florida to establish a policy requiring medical examiners and investigators to indicate whether a victim of suicide is a veteran on their death certificates. In cases where there are missing or incomplete service records, medical examiners and investigators can partner with Veteran Service Organizations to improve accuracy. The letter to DeSantis comes after a joint meeting of Crist’s and Bilirakis’ Veteran Advisory Boards raised concerns that veteran suicide data may not be as accurate as it should be. Crist and Bilirakis represent more than 110,000 veterans.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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