U.S. Rep. John Katko wants to ensure state and local governments have the funding necessary to install barriers that can reduce suicide.
Katko, R-Camillus, partnered with U.S. Reps. Don Beyer and Grace Napolitano to introduce legislation that would establish a federal grant program for state and local governments to install barriers and netting on bridges.
The legislation, named The Barriers to Suicide Act, would make funding available through the Surface Transportation Block Grant and National Highway Performance Program. The bill also requires a study to be commissioned to determine other measures that can be taken to reduce suicides by jumping.
"Nationwide, many bridges lack barriers or sufficient safety nets — which are proven to deter suicide attempts and are critical to saving lives," Katko said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study in 2018 that found suicide rates increased nationwide by 25.4% from 1999 to 2016. In New York, the suicide rate jumped 28.8% over that same period.
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While using firearms, poisoning and suffocation are the most common means of committing suicide, falls accounted for 2.4% of suicide deaths in 2017, according to the CDC.
There have been several studies that show barriers and netting prevent suicides. Nets or other barriers have been installed at several iconic bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge in California.
That's one reason why Colleen Creighton, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, supports the bill.
"Providing the ability to implement these barriers is going to make a drastic difference in this country, keeping family members and friends alive," she said.
Katko co-chairs the House Suicide Prevention Task Force with Beyer, a Virginia Democrat. He also co-chairs the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. Napolitano, a California, is the founder and co-chair of the caucus.