Monday, October 28, 2019

News From Congressman Eliot Engel

Engel, Bilirakis Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Curb Suicides

 Congressmen Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Members of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, introduced bipartisan legislation today to curb the nation’s rising suicide rate.

The Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act would allocate significant federal funding to emergency departments to help identify and treat those with a high-risk suicide.

“The rising rates of suicides in the United States is a public health emergency that deserves immediate Congressional action,” said Congressman Engel. “In my home state of New York, suicide rates have increased by nearly 30% since 2000. I am pleased to join Congressman Bilirakis, on this important, bipartisan legislation which will leverage the skills of nurses and emergency departments professionals, who are trained in identifying and treating at-risk individuals, to help end this crisis and save lives.”

“These staggering statistics make it clear that we need improved methods for identifying and assessing the suicide risks of emergency department patients,” said Congressman Bilirakis. “Some of the communities in my district have the highest rates of suicide per capita in the nation. As part of my long-term commitment to fixing our broken mental healthcare system, I want to be sure that we enhance the procedures surrounding the discharge of patients who have attempted suicide or exhibit suicidal ideation to maximize the likelihood that they obtain appropriate follow-up care. Our bill is the first step in making that happen.”

“Emergency departments are often the place where patients with suicide risk factors, such as behavioral health conditions or substance use disorders,” said Emergency Nurses Association President Patti Kunz Howard, PhD, RN. “Suicide screening is an essential component of ensuring patient safety. This legislation would ensure that every emergency department has a plan in place to screen every patient.”

Between 1999 and 2016, the suicide rate increased by nearly 30% in New York, mirroring trends at the national level. Suicide claims about 47,000 Americans each year, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. 

To help end this public health crisis, Congressmen Engel and Bilirakis introduced the Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act. This bipartisan measure would allocate $100 million over a five-year period to support emergency department programs to prevent suicide specifically by:

  • Training emergency department clinicians to identify patients at a high-risk of suicide
  • Developing programs to coordinate the care and follow-up of those with an elevated risk of suicide
  • Supporting the recruitment and retainment of behavioral health professionals who specialize in treating individuals experiencing suicidal ideation
  • Incentivizing the development of new approaches such as telehealth to help those at a high risk of suicide 

Engel Statement on 10th Anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

 “10 years ago we passed one of the most consequential civil rights bills in modern times, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This bill, which I was proudly an original cosponsor on in 2001 and continued to cosponsor until its passage, made it possible to prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, national origin, disability and gender identity. It is a landmark law in this country, and has become even more important today with the rise in hate crimes over the past several years.

“While some so-called leaders continue to stoke the flames of bigotry, House Democrats are committed to protecting the rights and dignity of all Americans. Remember, it was our Democratic House, along with a Democratic Senate and President Obama, that enacted the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

“The Hate Crimes Prevention Act also laid the groundwork for another major piece of legislation that we’re currently fighting to advance, the Equality Act. It’s critical for us to extend all federal protections to every American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The House passed the Equality Act back in May, but as usual, Senate Republicans refuse to advance the bill forward. It’s long past time that our federal laws fully reflected our values as Americans.”

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