Schools must meet suicide prevention law mandates soon

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Middle school, high school and college administrators must meet new state regulations designed to prevent suicides among teens and young adults.

Jamie’s Law, passed by state legislators in March, specifically requires school systems to have detailed suicide awareness and prevention programs.

Higher education leaders who attended a recent college safety summit in Charleston were schooled on HB 2535 this week.

Al Kasprowicz, Ph.D, Director of the WELLWVU Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services was a panelist who spoke to nearly 130 summit participants from across the state.

“The hope is that the state as a whole is more concerted, more integrated, in its approach to reduce the risk of suicide,” Kasprowicz said.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. Suicide followed unintentional injury, the leading cause of death across the country for the same age group.

Jamie’s Law was named for Michelle Toman’s brother. He committed suicide many years ago. Toman worked with Delegate Mike Caputo (D-Marion) and Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D-Monongalia) among others to get a law passed to reduce the rate of suicides statewide.

“Although it’s a fairly dire type of topic, when you’re working with people who are really in difficult places there’s a lot of optimism that comes from how this legislation just coalesces efforts throughout the education system. That’s a great thing throughout the state,” Kasprowicz shared with MetroNews affiliate WAJR-AM.

By September 1 and even earlier for West Virginia middle schools and high schools, a number of requirements of Jamie’s Law must be in place.

Public middle and high school administrators must share suicide prevention and awareness information with students and open discussions on the topic.

“It’s the desire that to recognize that not only the students in college but students in middle school and high school will have been well aware and had these conversations as part of their development,” Kasprowicz explained.

University and college leaders must have policies in place to advise students of available programs both on and off campus about depression and suicide. Incoming students must be provided with resources as they begin their college careers.

At WVU, the Carruth Center disperses information in countless ways.

“We have social media campaigns. We use twitter accounts. We’re on facebook. Their i.d. cards have the center information on them. There are a whole variety of resources available to students,” Kasprowicz said.

A final part of Jamie’s Law also requires the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities to post on its website suicide prevention awareness information.