March 16, 2016

Lujan Advocates for Suicide Prevention Funds During Energy and Commerce Markup

Offers Amendment to Protect Funding that Assists Programs in New Mexico

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District offered an amendment that protects funding for suicide prevention programs during a recent Energy and Commerce Committee Markup.  Luján submitted the amendment on a bill that eliminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund that was created by the Affordable Care Act.  H.R. 4725 included significant funding cuts that strip vital services to combat suicide in communities across New Mexico and the nation.  Luján’s amendment was defeated with all but one Republican on the committee voting against it.  Below are his remarks as delivered.

“Mr. Chairman, I’d like to visit with all of our colleagues about an important provision that’s being stricken from this bill, but first off, to make clear that I strongly oppose the repeal of the Prevention and Public Health Fund.  The Prevention Fund provides vital resources to support state-run public health efforts to combat chronic diseases, lead poisoning, and suicide. In 2015, this fund provided more than $7 million to New Mexico.
“For the last several years, this committee has been working to improve mental health care in this country.  Unfortunately, this bill undermines those efforts.  According to the CDC, in 2014, there were nearly 43,000 suicides across our nation.  For young Americans between the ages of 15 and 34, suicide remains the second leading cause of death.  Behind each of these numbers is the story of a family member, a friend, and a loved one whose life ended far too soon.

“To combat this, Congress created the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention program. Last year, we provided $12 million through the Prevention and Public Health Fund to the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention programs to help states and tribes implement youth suicide prevention programs. This accounts for nearly a third of the total funding this program received.
“To date, the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention program has awarded 180 grants to 50 states and the District of Columbia, 47 tribes or tribal organizations, and one territory.  This includes a program for the Pueblo of San Felipe, which is working to develop and implement tribal youth programs.  This also makes sure early intervention programs are not left behind.

“The research shows that Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention efforts work.  One study in the American Journal of Public Health showed that counties that have adopted this training have significantly lowered suicide rates among young people.  Another study reported that an expansion of the program would have prevented more than 79,000 suicide attempts.  Let me repeat that last one.  Another study reported that an expansion of the program would have prevented more than 79,000 suicide attempts.

“So I hope when we have a conversation about this that there’s not a mention of this being a slush fund or a gimmick because 79,000 is real and meaningful.  Just one [life] is, as we look at this important program.

“We shouldn’t forget that this was brought to us in 2004 after the passing of the son of one of our colleagues, Senator Smith out of Oregon.  I hope that there’s some support in this regard not to cut this program, not to reduce this program by an additional $12 million, and that’s why I’m offering an amendment to protect the Prevention Fund from any cuts to the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Program, which does also receive some funding from another area.  So I hope an excuse is not given to suggest that more funds come into this program through another aspect of the budget, which is $24 million.  It’s currently at $36 million.  This was authorized for $82 million in 2004, signed by President Bush, where the Congress came together to do the right thing.”

“So I am hopeful we’ll do the right thing today and protect this program.”

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