Residents will have a chance to help prevent suicide with the check of a box on their state income tax returns, thanks to a new bill by Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Tuesday.
Assembly Bill 984, introduced by Lackey and co-authored by a number of legislators, including state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, allows taxpayers to contribute their own money to a new voluntary contribution fund called Suicide Prevention Voluntary Tax Contribution Account. The funds would be distributed to California crisis centers that are active members of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
More closely, 50% of the funds would have to go to those members for suicide prevention services in proportion to the percentage of calls received annually and 50% toward program services in rural and desert communities through a commission-administered, project-specific grant process, according to an analysis of the bill.
About 4,300 deaths by suicide were reported nationwide in 2018, an increase of 50% since 2001, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. In rural areas, the suicide rate is three times higher than the state average, said Lackey, who added that “rural and desert areas of California have fewer mental health facilities available to offer counseling services.”
An increase in attempted suicides is also prevalent in the Santa Clarita Valley, said Cheryl Jones, vice president of marketing and community outreach at the Child and Family Center.
“With Suicide Awareness Month (in September), it’s really been evident for a need for additional services in Santa Clarita,” she said. “There are definitely many more incidents than we’ve seen before.”
In this legislative session, elected officials approved at least two other bills aimed at reducing suicide among the youth. Newsom has until Oct. 13 to decide whether to approve any remaining bills.