Legislators React to Youth Suicide Prevention Audit

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

SACRAMENTO — Yesterday the California State Auditor released a report on youth suicide prevention requested by Assemblymembers Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), James C. Ramos (D-Highland), Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach). The report found that school districts lack the resources and policies necessary to effectively address rising rates of youth suicide and self-harm.

“I remain committed to addressing the growing crisis of youth suicide in California, especially during this stressful and challenging time,” said Assemblymember Berman. “The audit identifies where we are falling short, and provides helpful recommendations for how California can ensure that all of our youth have access to critical mental health services. We must use this audit as a catalyst for change, and make the investment needed to protect our students’ health and safety.”

“The state auditor’s report on the lack of resources and policies for our children is a loud and clear call to action,” stated Ramos. “It serves to guide policymakers about what we need to do to help save the lives of our children. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Native American youth, and rural and Northern parts of our state are also hit hard by this tragedy which rips apart families and communities.”

“Any time a young person takes their own life, it is an absolute tragedy that weighs heavily on family, friends, student peers, teachers, and the community as a whole,” said Assemblymember Salas. “The State Auditor’s report reaffirms the need for action on the state and local level to better improve suicide prevention efforts. Schools and teachers are on the front lines of suicide prevention and we need to make sure they have the appropriate training and mental health resources to protect our students and prevent future tragedies.”

The audit found that from 2009 to 2018, the number of youth suicides increased by 15 percent statewide and self-harm incidents increased by 50 percent. No school reported employing the recommended number of school counselors, nurses, social workers, or psychologists. Further, 25 percent of schools did not employ a single mental health professional, and none of the six schools that were reviewed have adopted adequate youth suicide prevention policies or training. The audit recommends that schools employ more mental health professionals, invest in school-based health centers, and draw down federal reimbursement funds to provide mental health resources to students.

Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee requested the audit. In 2016, AB 2246 (O’Donnell) required schools to adopt a policy on pupil suicide prevention. In 2018, Assemblymember Berman secured $1.7 million to develop and disseminate an online suicide prevention training program to schools at no cost.  In 2019, AB 1767 (Ramos) required schools serving students in grades K-6 to adopt and periodically update a policy on student suicide prevention. This year the Governor signed AB 2112 (Ramos), which authorizes the Department of Public Health to establish the Office of Suicide Prevention to address suicide and suicide prevention.

Contact: Elizabeth Schmitt, (916) 319-2024