State Sen. Sean Bowie’s efforts to extend suicide prevention training for school personnel recently got a boost from Gov. Doug Ducey, who signed two bills the Ahwatukee Democrat introduced during the last legislative session.
Ducey signed SB 1445, which extends Bowie’s Mitch Warnock Act from last year to include suicide prevention training in all university and community college training programs for students studying to be school counselors or social workers.
SB 1446, which goes into effect the fall 2021, requires all high schools, universities and community colleges to issue student ID cars that include a suicide prevention hotline number.
While many school districts, including Tempe Union, have already been issuing ID cards with suicide prevention hotline numbers and related information, Bowie said the bill was significant because “the bigger impact is at the university and community college level.”
“Now all student ID cards at ASU and the other universities will have this information,” he said, adding it “will impact hundreds of thousands of students annually.”
The Mitch Warnock Act is named after Mountain Pointe High School Teacher Lorie Warnock’s son, a senior at Corona del Sol High School who was lost to suicide in 2016.
That bill, which takes effect in the coming school year requires all school personnel who interact with students from sixth through 12th grade get training in recognizing suicidal signs and knowing what to do in terms of getting students help.
The new bill signed by Ducey extends that concept to university and community college training programs for school counselors and social workers, who may not necessarily be able to recognize suicidal tendencies or know what to do when they see them.
Both new bills had wide bipartisan support, as did the Mitch Warnock Act last year. “We faced very little opposition to either bill, which I was excited about,” Bowie said.
With numerous education and other experts expressing concern over the impact of the pandemic and campus closures on students’ mental health, Bowie said both measures have taken on even greater importance – even though he introduced them before COVID-19 had become a major problem in the U.S.
“Many students can’t see a counselor or social worker at the moment,” Bowie said, “so those resources will be really important for students once school resumes this fall.”