Katko unveils bipartisan bill to reduce suicide deaths in America

U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY), co-chair of the House Suicide Prevention Task Force, on Sept. 12 introduced bipartisan legislation that would establish a grant program for installing evidence-based suicide deterrents, including suicide prevention nets and barriers on bridges around the country.

“This measure establishes a competitive grant program so that states and local government can apply for federal funding to build safety nets and barriers on bridges, and ensure that those already in place are effective,” said Rep. Katko, who cosponsored the Barriers To Suicide Act of 2019, H.R. 4309, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018 reported that suicide rates in the United States have consistently increased since 1999 with falling deaths being the nation’s fourth-leading cause of suicide.

“This month marks National Suicide Prevention Month, and, in recognition of this, I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing important legislation to help prevent suicide,” Rep. Katko said. “Nationwide, many bridges lack barriers or sufficient safety nets — which are proven to deter suicide attempts and are critical to saving lives.”

If enacted, H.R. 4309 also would make federal funding eligible under two existing programs: the Surface Transportation Block Grant and the National Highway Performance Program, and also would authorize a study to determine more strategies to reduce jumping deaths.

H.R. 4309, which has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the American Association of Suicidology.

“Means reduction is a key component in suicide prevention. More bridge barriers will greatly assist our lifesaving efforts,” said John Madigan, senior vice president and chief public policy officer of the AFSP.

“Research has shown time and again how barriers are effective ways to prevent suicides,” said Colleen Creighton, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology. “Providing the ability to implement these barriers is going to make a drastic difference in this country, keeping family members and friends alive.”