A state panel is looking to spend at least $900,000 a year on suicide prevention efforts going forward.
The Suicide Prevention Task Force is recommending Wisconsin adopt 10 different bills aimed at bolstering public awareness and establishing a number of grant programs to curb gun-related deaths, support students at all levels and direct tuition assistance to low-income farmers who meet certain qualifications, among other things.
That's according to an overview of the legislation shared with the Cap Times. The offices of the task force's leading lawmakers, Reps. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, and Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, didn't immediately return requests for comment.
Members of the task force are set to officially release their recommendations in a Capitol announcement Wednesday.
Still, the overview showed the 15-member bipartisan group — created by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, in March — is looking at a variety of different measures to combat suicide and provide assistance to at-risk individuals including farmers and young people.
Specifically, the panel is looking to spend $250,000 per year on a suicide prevention program within the Department of Health Services, and the funding would support two positions within the agency, including a designated director of suicide prevention.
Another bill would appropriate $500,000 per biennium for a grant program administered by DHS and tasked with suicide prevention programming that could include supporting the purchases of trigger and firearm locks, lock-boxes and safes.
On preventing suicides through the use of firearms, one bill would direct DHS to award $150,000 each biennium in grants to train staff at firearm retailers or ranges on how to avoid selling or renting a firearm to someone who could be considering suicide, among other things.
Other legislation in the package would distribute $250,000 per year to fund peer-to-peer suicide prevention programs in high schools; allocate $70,000 this fiscal year and $200,000 the following one to help school districts implement prevention and intervention programs for alcohol and other drugs; and mandate that all student ID cards include the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or another similar resource.
One bill would have DHS award $110,000 annually to support a text or app-based suicide prevention program and direct the recipient to share data it collects with the state. The Legislature in the state's current budget already allocated $220,000 toward the Center for Suicide Awareness, which has implemented the Suicide HOPELINE that provides resources for people in crisis.
But that money has yet to be released to the center by the GOP-controlled budget committee, though the committee's leaders previously told the Wisconsin State Journal they'll work to quickly get the new bill through the legislative process.
The Joint Finance Committee previously drew fire for initially declining to release funding to support mental health initiatives for farmers across the state after Democrats requested it. Members earlier this month voted to free up the $200,000 for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Just one proposed bill in the task force's recommendations specifically deals with farmers; it would provide $10,000 each biennium for tuition grants for low-income farmers who take courses on farm and business management techniques.
The remaining ones would: require certain professionals complete at least two hours of suicide prevention training every two years to be credentialed; and create an interim psychologist license that would be valid for two years or until a permanent license is obtained.