Legislation would require more medical professionals to be trained in suicide prevention

Staff writerJanuary 22, 2014 

The House Health Care and Wellness Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill that would expand the number of health care professionals required to complete suicide prevention training.

Legislation passed in 2012 made it a requirement for counselors, therapists, and psychologists to undergo training in suicide assessment and treatment every six years. House Bill 2315 would expand the required training to licensed practical nurses, chiropractors, and physical therapists. Physicians would be required to complete the training every eight years.

“I think this bill does a good job expanding [upon House Bill 2366 from 2012],” said Rep. Tina Orwall, a Democrat from Des Moines and prime sponsor of the legislation. “We know it’s important for the whole treatment team to be trained.”

Many people signed up to testify in favor of the legislation Wednesday, among them Jennifer Stuber from Forefront at the University of Washington.

Stuber’s husband took his own life in 2011 after not receiving the adequate support from mental health professionals treating him for on-going depression and anxiety.

Stuber stressed that the current system of voluntary training does not work. She said mandating the proper suicide assessment and training is the only way to fix a broken system of mental health treatment in Washington.

While there is bipartisan support for the legislation, some involved parties oppose the mandate requiring the training, asking for it to be voluntary for medical practitioners.

Doris Visaya, the director of public policy at the Home Care Association of Washington, said that while the training is highly important to some areas of practice, it “may not be relevant in others.”

Mary Langley of the Association of Advanced Practice Psychiatric Nurses said that while her organization is not opposed to additional training, they are similarly opposed to the mandate within the legislation.

“Each provider should be able to choose based on their needs,” Langley said.

Sandi Ando, the public policy chair of National Alliance on Mental Illness Washington, stressed the importance of suicide prevention training and the impact it could have on the community.

“This is a community problem, community problems demand answers,” Ando said.

Rep. Orwall is confident in the effectiveness of the proposed legislation. She said that Washington state has a suicide rate higher than the national average and that some of the highest suicide rates are among veterans.

“This bill is really about saving lives, and I think it will,” Orwall said.


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