Statement from Headquarters, Inc in regards to the SB 333
February 2, 2018
Allan Bunch, director of development
Friday, February 2, 2018: A Statement from Headquarters, Inc in regards to the SB 333, amendment to the Jason Flatt Act:
Headquarters, Inc. is aware of and concerned about SB 333, the proposed amendments to the Jason Flatt Act currently under review by the Committee on Education in the Kansas State Senate. The Jason Flatt Act currently requires all school staff to participate in 1 hour of suicide prevention training each calendar year. The proposed amendment would remove the requirement of 1 hour per calendar year and would only require “select” staff to participate.
We continue to believe that the best way to prevent suicide is by having community-wide interventions. For youth, schools are central to their interactions in the community.
Our best knowledge tells us that the more people able to recognize youth who are at risk for suicide, create stronger and safer communities and schools.
For more information on the suggested amendment, visit: http://kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/sb333/
view the statement here:
Monday, February 5, 2018: View the full letter sent to Sen. Molly Baumgardener, Chair of the Committee on Education and the other committee members: Letter to Sen Baumgardener
On behalf of Headquarters, Inc., I wish to convey my most sincere concern over SB 333, the proposed amendment to the Jason Flatt Act currently under review by your committee. While we appreciate the new proposed requirements of written plans being published on district websites, we believe that limiting the number of staff required to participate in annual training as well as no longer requiring a minimum of one hour each calendar year is harmful to the safety and well-being of students across the state of Kansas.
It is the opinion of the board of Headquarters, Inc. that The Jason Flatt Act is most beneficial when all school staff receives suicide prevention training. Instead of repealing the required one hour of suicide prevention training and limiting the number of school staff required to participate in the training, we should be seeking ways to expand the legislation and track its effectiveness in our schools. One example could be to require all school districts to participate in the KCTC Student Survey on depression and suicide to see the impact of this training in schools.
Every child in our state deserves to have their primary point of contact in their school to have participated in evidence-based suicide prevention training as every child interacts with staff differently and may be aware of changes in a child’s life that another staff member may not. Restricting these requirements dismantles the core of the Jason Flatt Act and is a disservice to both to our state as well as your district. A mere hour of suicide prevention education, enables all school staff to recognize the warning signs of suicide and learn basic intervention techniques. Many times, the custodians, cafeteria workers, and administrative staff might be the first to notice a warning sign in a student or even their parents. It also advances public health by having school staff, as members of the community able to recognize suicide risk. The individuals receiving this training have all devoted their careers to the safety and well-being of our children. Spending just one hour per calendar year learning how to combat the #2 cause of death for these kids seems like an hour that every staff person in our school districts would be willing to make.
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15-24 and the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 5-14 in our state. In Stafford County, according to the 2016 Vital Statistics, your age-adjusted suicide rate of 23.76 per 100,000 is over one-third again the suicide rate of Kansas. It’s almost double the national rate.
I ask you and the committee to maintain a minimum of one-hour of training to all K-12 staff. I ask this not only for the children across our state, but for those in your district as well.
Thursday, February 8, 2018: Monica Kurz, KSPRC director for Headquarters, Inc. provided testimony to the Senate Committee on Education.
Testimony in Opposition of Senate Bill No. 333
Amending the Jason Flatt act:
removing requirement of training all school staff for one hour in suicide warning signs
Presented to the Senate Committee on Education
By Monica Kurz, BA
Headquarters, Inc, Director Kansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center
February 8, 2018
Chairwoman Baumgardner and honorable members of the Committee on Education:
Thank you for hearing testimony today in opposition of the amendment of the Jason Flatt Act. Today you will hear testimony in opposition to the proposed changes including the change to eliminate the training for all school staff to training select staff. You will also hear opposition to the deletion of the one hour requirement. All of this is meant to impress upon you the importance of entire school communities being prepared to recognize when youth are at risk of suicide. This means the school can work together to save young lives. My hope is that after hearing this testimony you will decide to amend the Jason Flatt act from its current form as a strong piece of legislation working to protect Kansas youth.
I am the Director for the Kansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center program at Headquarters, Inc. Headquarters, Inc is the suicide prevention leader in Kansas, providing counseling, education and resources for all to improve public health. At Headquarters, Inc we know suicide is a public health problem which can be addressed through cooperation by people from many sectors including K-12 education. The Kansas Suicide Prevention Resource Center (KSPRC) provides information and training to lay-people, mental health professionals, school personnel, and community leaders across the state to strengthen the safety net for all Kansans. This work is in support of the second goal for the Kansas Suicide Prevention Plan (2014) which reads:
“Increase the prevention, intervention and management training of personnel in mental health, behavioral health, education, law enforcement and primary care fields.”
The Jason Flatt act works to support the Kansas Suicide Prevention Plan by codifying into law that all school staff increase their knowledge of how to recognize when a youth may be at risk for suicide. Schools have several free resources for how to complete this training including the Jason Foundation and an online module available on the DCCCA website. My work through the KSPRC has put me in contact with schools who have taken a different approach by asking some school personnel to develop a training which can be personalized to their district.
The contact KSPRC has had with school counseling personnel indicate that the training is having the intended effect which is to give teachers, custodial staff, administrators, food service staff, support personnel and others the tools to make referrals for students when necessary. One school counselor recently reported that the Jason Flatt training has been critical in making her aware of students who are discussing death, experiencing a mental health problem or considering suicide. She related that in a school of over 2,000 students the counseling staff are often only made aware of students who are struggling when they are noticed by teachers or staff. She has received referrals to check-in with students from the building custodian and a substitute teacher both of whom received Jason Flatt training. In another occurrence a teacher happened to see a social media post using slang for “kill myself” which he had been made aware of in the Jason Flatt training. The teacher recognized this post as a warning sign and involved counseling staff. The student was identified as having a serious suicide plan and then received proper treatment. This student may have gone unnoticed without Jason Flatt training.
The evidence gathered by the professional suicide prevention community supports what school personnel are reporting. Many schools are engaging in “gatekeeper” training. A “gatekeeper” can be defined as “someone who identifies youth at risk for suicide and knows how to connect youth with appropriate professional resources” (Walsh, Hooven, & Kronick, 2013). This is a critical connection point in schools because while the school mental health professionals have the most knowledge about suicide risk and treatment they are the least likely to interact with students who have not already been identified as being at risk or experiencing a mental health problem. Youth who are considering suicide are less likely than their peers to seek help from mental health professionals. Training programs have been shown to increase the knowledge about warning signs and increase confidence in intervening when signs are noticed (Wyman et al, 2008).
A 1999 study found that only 9% of a national sample of teachers felt they could recognize a student at risk for suicide (King, Price, Telijohann, and Wahl). This is concerning because we know that students can exhibit verbal, academic, and behavioral signs when they are thinking of ending their lives. Teachers and other school staff are able to observe and interact with students when they are in social situations. Often times, students exhibit different behaviors in this setting than when they are in a mental health professional’s office. Suicide in Schools, reports that English teachers are frequent “gatekeeper” referral makers since students often present their suicidal thoughts in creative writing. It is critical that we continue to provide information on warning signs to all staff best positioned to notice them.
Investigation has found “gatekeeper” knowledge can be conveyed in 1 hour with positive effect on improving knowledge. The hour time component is also endorsed by Kansas school staff who are responsible for training other personnel. In addition, practice has shown these trainings need to be repeated regularly since the skills decay over time (Cross, et al., 2011). I am not aware of evidence supporting shorter training programs. The one hour mandate continues to be necessary.
My hope is that it is clear to the committee that the Jason Flatt act in its current form gives educators and students their best hope for reducing youth suicide deaths. This committee has the opportunity to reject the proposed changes and work to sustain life-saving systems for our youth.