ALBANY — In response to alarming trends in rural suicides in New York, State Senator Jen Metzger’s bill (S2070) to address suicide prevention in rural areas unanimously passed the State Senate. The bill calls for the creation of a 12-person Rural Suicide Prevention Council to examine the causes and conditions of rural suicide, as well as disparities in access to mental health care. The council will be tasked with creating a plan within a year to identify persons at-risk for suicide, particularly within certain professions – including farming and agricultural work – and to increase access to and delivery of suicide prevention care.
“Since 1999, suicide rates in New York State have increased by 30%, almost all in upstate and rural communities, including ten counties that have suicide rates higher than the national average,” explains Senator Metzger, who represents parts of Delaware County which is currently experiencing the third highest suicide rate in the state. “We must develop a plan to address the root causes of this terrible trend, including lack of access to mental health resources and care, social isolation, and high-stress financial pressures in farming communities.”
Council members will be appointed by the Commissioners of Health and Agriculture & Markets, as well as majority and minority leaders in both houses of the legislature.
“There are great models out there, like New York FarmNet, a program founded in 1986 by Cornell University, which has been providing a variety of critical services to farmers, including mental health first-aid,” Metzger added. “FarmNet is just the kind of organization I’d like to see represented on the Rural Suicide Prevention Council, helping to determine the best way to provide the mental health services needed in our rural communities.”
Assemblywoman Didi Barrett is sponsoring the companion bill (A6007) in the Assembly.
Jen Metzger represents the 42nd Senate District, which includes all of Sullivan County and parts of Delaware, Orange, and Ulster Counties. Senator Metzger serves as Chair of the Agriculture Committee and sits on the Environmental Conservation, Education, Health, Energy and Telecommunications, and Local Government, Women’s Issues, Domestic Animal Welfare, and Legislative Commission on Rural Resources Committees.
–The Office of State Senator Jen Metzger
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