TOPEKA – (February 5, 2019) – A task force appointed to survey efforts in Kansas to prevent youth suicide and to recommend steps to improve the state’s response today issued its report.
Among the recommendations of the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force are improving coordination between state and local officials, increasing communication and sharing of data, developing an app as a communication tool for at-risk youth, increasing availability of mental health services and lowering wait times for care particularly in rural areas, offering evidence-based youth suicide prevention training in schools, and creating a Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator within the attorney general’s office to coordinate awareness and prevention efforts.
“Childhood should not be a life or death experience. Unfortunately, the youth suicide statistics show that too often right now it is,” Task Force Co-chair Jennifer Schmidt said. “We studied this tragic epidemic, hearing the names and the stories of kids taken from us too young. But we also heard about valiant prevention efforts, engaged communities, and teachers, principals, counselors, law enforcement officers, parents and students working tirelessly to prevent further deaths. We are proud to offer these recommendations as next steps Kansas can take to reduce, and hopefully eradicate, youth suicide in Kansas.”
Dr. Andy Tompkins, co-chair of the task force, added, “The task force, which was composed of interested Kansans from a variety of geographic and professional experiences, learned so much from the large number of people who provided testimony and became keenly aware of the need for a coordinated response to address this critical issue in our state.”
In June, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Tower Mental Health Foundation created the task force. The group conducted public hearings at locations around the state, compiled testimony and produced today's report.
At the time the task force was announced, AG Schmidt noted that between 2005 and 2015, the rate of suicides in Kansas by persons 18 years of age or younger rose to 2.5 from 1.1 per 100,000 population, according to data compiled by the State Child Death Review Board (SCDRB). Since then, another annual SCDRB report has been published, with the number of youth suicides in Kansas again increasing in 2016, to 20 suicides with a rate of 3.0 deaths per 100,000 population.
“The trend has been moving the wrong direction," AG Schmidt said. "I’m grateful for the service of the task force volunteers and all others who participated in this work. I’m hopeful this report will drive a meaningful and substantive discussion in our state about how we can do better in preventing suicide among young Kansans.”
Members of the task force were:
- Prof. Jennifer Schmidt (co-chair), Clinical Associate Professor of Law, University of Kansas
- Dr. Andy Tompkins (co-chair), Retired Educator
- Senator Molly Baumgardner, Chair, Senate Education Committee
- Kearny County Deputy Sheriff Randy Combs, Past President, Kansas Juvenile Officer Association
- Dr. Leo Herrman, Associate Professor of Psychology, Ft. Hays State University
- Representative Russ Jennings, Chair, House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee
- Kathryn Mosher, MS MBA, Executive Director, Central Kansas Mental Health Center
- Dorthy Stucky Halley, Director of Victims Services Division, Office of the Kansas Attorney General
- Dr. Randy Watson, Commissioner of Education
A copy of the task force report, including a full list of its recommendations, is available at https://ag.ks.gov/ysptf.