The Lead

Pennsylvania’s Suicide Prevention Task Force will hold public meetings this fall

By: - August 21, 2019 5:28 pm

Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller, foreground, with Gov. Tom Wolf, background. (Courtesy of Wolf administration)

A special task force convened by Gov. Tom Wolf will travel across the state this fall to hear from Pennsylvanians affected by suicide, his office announced Wednesday. 

The statewide listening tour will allow Wolf’s Suicide Prevention Task Force to gather information for a suicide prevention plan, according to a news release. 

Individuals and families who have been affected by suicide deaths are invited to attend the public discussions, which will be facilitated by trained mental health professionals. 

The task force has already confirmed three meetings:

  • Sept 12, Erie: Reed Union Building, Penn State Behrend, 4701 College Drive, Erie, Pa., 5:30–7:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 7, Pittsburgh: Jewish Healthcare Foundation, 650 Smithfield St, 26th Floor, Pittsburgh, Pa., 5:30–7:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 8, Slippery Rock: Slippery Rock University, 102 Robert M. Smith Student Center, 1 Morrow Way, Slippery Rock, Pa., 10 a.m.–12 p.m.

Additional sessions will be scheduled through November in Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and northeastern, southeastern, and south central Pennsylvania, according to the release.

The announcement came on the same day that the task force met in Harrisburg, where its members discussed a comprehensive state plan to reduce suicide.

They also discussed a new focus on firearm-related suicides — a response to a directive Wolf issued earlier this month, when he signed an executive order aimed at reducing gun violence across the state. 

‘This is about organizing government’: Gov. Wolf signs executive order on gun violence

The order calls on the Suicide Prevention Task Force to study gun suicides, issue recommendations to reduce them, and promote safe firearm storage policies.

Wolf is a proponent of “red flag” gun laws, which would allow law enforcement officials to temporarily seize guns from people deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. Supporters of such legislation in Pennsylvania and other states say it will curtail gun suicide and domestic violence incidents.  

According to Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, 52 percent of all suicide attempts in Pennsylvania involve guns, and 85 percent of those are lethal. 

“We cannot have a meaningful discussion about preventing suicide without also discussing how people are attempting,” Miller said in the release. “We are committed to looking closely at this issue so state and local governments, treatment systems, and support networks are informed and prepared to help people who are at risk.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at any time by calling 1-800-273-8255.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.