Winchester Star • March 5th, 2018
By Josh Janney
WINCHESTER — A bill introduced by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, to help prevent suicides has unanimously passed the state House and Senate.
The bill is now headed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature. HB 569 requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) to report on its anti-suicide activities annually to the Virginia General Assembly and the governor. The report is due on Dec. 1 each year.
The department has the lead responsibility for the commonwealth’s Suicide Prevention Across the Lifespan Plan. The plan is a guide for the department and other state agencies as they try to find ways to reduce the risk of suicide around Virginia.
State code says the DBHDS is currently required to coordinate the activities of the state agencies pertaining to suicide prevention so it can develop and carry out a comprehensive suicide prevention plan. The plan would address public awareness, the promotion of health development, early identification, intervention and treatment and support to survivors.
Gooditis said the DBHDS not reporting its findings to the General Assembly annually is a problem because it keeps legislators and the governor in the dark about which measures work in regard to suicide prevention. Without this data, the governor and the elected representatives have less guidance in determining which initiatives need support and which programs should receive funding.
Gooditis’ bill makes these reports available to the state lawmakers.