Wyoming lawmakers question suicide prevention fund request

December 17, 2019 GMT

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Some Wyoming lawmakers are skeptical about a $1 million request by state health officials to join the national suicide prevention hotline.

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee heard the request during a budget presentation by the state Department of Health Monday, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Wyoming is the only state without an affiliate within the national hotline’s network, officials said.

The $1 million would allow the health department to find a call center provider for Wyoming, department Deputy Director Stefan Johansson said.

Without a center, suicide prevention calls are bounced to other centers outside Wyoming. That means callers wait longer and operators may not be aware of Wyoming’s available resources, officials said.

Republican Rep. Bob Nicholas, the appropriations committee co-chairman, asked why the department had not done more research before requesting the large appropriation. He urged officials to research other available options before making the request.

Committee members asked about other options such as using an out-of-state call center that is aware of Wyoming resources.

Republican Rep. Albert Sommers suggested the possible use of the Safe2Tell program, an anonymous app for students to report safety concerns about peers.

Republican Gov. Mark Gordon recommended in his state budget proposal that the department’s $1 million hotline request be denied.