Assembly Passes Bill Calling for Required Suicide-Prevention Training
The Assembly passed the measure by a 44-11 vote, and it now heads to the Senate for approval.
Background on Suicide Rates
The number of suicides in California hit a peak of about 4,000 in 2011, according to data from the California Department of Public Health, the AP/Bee reports. The increase in suicide rates largely occurred among Californians ages 45 to 64, with 1,542 of such individuals committing suicide in 2012 compared with 919 in 2000.
Assembly member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), the bill's sponsor, said about one-third of individuals in California who commit suicide seek mental health treatment during the year before they die.
Details of Bill
Levine said AB 2198 follows recommendations from a report released in 2012 by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Specifically, the bill would establish one-time suicide-prevention training requirements for:
- Family therapists;
- Licensed psychologists; and
- Social workers.
In addition, the bill would require new mental health professionals to undergo 15 hours of such training and six hours of continuing education for already licensed individuals.
If the bill becomes law, it would take effect in 2016.
However, several lawmakers and a social workers group questioned whether such requirements are necessary.
The National Association of Social Workers' California chapter opposes the bill. The organization said its members deal with a wide range of issues and should be trusted by the state to undergo the training that is necessary to their specific work.
Assembly member Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), who is a social worker, withheld her vote on the bill, saying it is unclear whether a lack of suicide-prevention training contributed to the rise in suicides in the state. She said that she hasn't "been persuaded we don't already have the emphasis as needed for this very important issue" (Nirappil, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/19).
Task Force Says Suicide Screening Not Necessarily Helpful
In related news, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Monday released guidelines stating that screening every patient for suicide risk might not help reduce suicide rates, NPR's "Shots" reports.
The federal panel -- after evaluating the effectiveness of existing screening tools for suicide -- instead recommended that primary care providers pay special attention to individuals with symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions. The panel concluded, "Recent evidence suggests that interventions during these high-risk periods are effective in reducing suicide death" (Shute, "Shots," NPR, 5/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.