Governor Doug Ducey speaking with supporters at the 2018 election eve rally hosted by the Arizona Republican Party at the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott, Arizona. Flickr/Gage Skidmore/File Photo
Arizona

Governor Ducey Signs Bill Combating Teen Suicide

Governor Doug Ducey speaking with supporters at the 2018 election eve rally hosted by the Arizona Republican Party at the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott, Arizona. Flickr/Gage Skidmore/File Photo

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1468 on May 8, also known as the Mitch Warnock Act, expanding suicide awareness and prevention training in public schools to support Arizona’s adolecents and teens.

To help prevent further deaths by suicide, the Mitch Warnock Act requires all school employees who work with students in grades six to 12 to receive training on suicide prevention at least once every three years. Training would include information on suicide prevention and how to identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior in adolescents and teens. The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) will also be required to make suicide awareness and prevention training available and post the information on their website.

The bill was named for Mitch Warnock, a student from Corona Del Sol High School who died by suicide at age 18. Mitch’s parents, Timothy Warnock and Lorie Adair are educators and championed the bipartisan bill as it progressed through the legislative process, along with the JEM Foundation, a non-profit, co-founded by Denise and Ben Denslow who also lost a child to suicide.

Being able to identify risk factors and events leading up to suicide is critical to help save lives. According to a report from the Arizona Department of Health Services, 50 Arizona adolescents and teens died by suicide in 2017.

“Suicide has become a significant public health issue in the United States,” said Ducey. “We’ve already lost too many young people to suicide and I’m glad that Arizona is taking action by training the first responders in our schools – our guidance counselors, teachers and administrators – on how to identify the warning signs that lead to suicide.”

“As teachers, we appreciate that our public schools are the hub of our community and that all of us have a role to play in helping our children,” said Timothy Warnock and Lorie Adair.

“We believe this bipartisan initiative will save countless lives from an often impulsive act of desperation. We are grateful to the state of Arizona.”

“We thank Governor Ducey for rejecting the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide, and for acknowledging the enormity of this crisis in the State of Arizona, particularly among our youth,” said Ben and Denise Denslow, founders of The JEM Foundation.

“SB 1468 recognizes the importance of early intervention and the important role teachers have in the lives of our students by ensuring they can identify a potential crisis and refer students to the appropriate help,” said Ben and Denise Denslow.

“I want to thank Governor Ducey for signing SB 1468 into law. This is an important first step to address teen suicides in Arizona, and I will continue to work with him and my legislative colleagues to further address this critical issue,” said Senator Sean Bowie.

Supporters include:

Northern Arizona University; Arizona Psychiatric Society; Coconino County Supervisor Elizabeth Archuleta; Arizona School Administrators Association; Arizona State University; Education Finance Reform Group; Mesa Chamber Of Commerce; East Valley Chambers Of Commerce Alliance; Chandler Chamber Of Commerce; Arizona Association Of Health Plans; Arizona Public Health Association; Arizona Council Of Human Service Providers; Arizona Board Of Regents; Arizona Department Of Education; Stand For Children; National Association Of Social Workers, Arizona Chapter; University of Arizona

Suicide is preventable if people learn to recognize the warning signs and know where to turn for help. If you know someone in crisis, refer them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK [8255], Arizona’s Teen Lifeline 800-248-TEEN [8336] or county-specific crisis hotlines.