LEGISLATIVE WATCH WYOMING: Governor Signs Law to Support Funding Efforts for 24/7 Suicide Prevention Services
Legislation creates trust fund, requires health department to designate crisis centers
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Feb 24, 2023
By Shen Wu Tan
Special to the Wyoming Truth
The governor on Thursday signed a law to support funding efforts for around-the-clock local suicide prevention services in Wyoming, a state with one of the highest suicide rates per capita nationwide.
Gov. Mark Gordon gave his stamp of approval for House Enrolled Act 36 or “988 suicide prevention.” It creates a trust fund for 988, the mental health crisis hotline system that launched nationally last summer, to help fund call centers and other suicide prevention services.
Andi Summerville, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Centers who brought forth the original bill, said she is grateful Gordon, lawmakers and others supported the legislation.
“This bill represents a solid step forward towards addressing suicide in Wyoming and supporting our friends, neighbors and families,” Summerville told the Wyoming Truth. “We look forward to the continuing work to make sure 988 is successful and funded in the future.”
The governor’s office did not provide further comments about the law to the Wyoming Truth.
The 988-system trust fund would include funds assigned to the account by law and money collected from federal grants, gifts, donations and other contributions. During each fiscal year starting July 1, 2024, earnings from the trust fund would be appropriated to the Wyoming Department of Health, permitting it to spend 5% of the previous five-year average market value of the trust fund account. The average market value would be the average market value for the years the trust fund has existed until it has been in place for five years.
Under the act, the state health department must designate one or more crisis centers to provide 24/7 services to individuals anywhere in Wyoming using the 988 system. The department can also provide onsite response services such as mobile crisis teams.
The legislation also requires that the state health department request an appropriation for implementing the act in its next budget request for the following fiscal biennium. Additionally, the department must make “reasonable efforts” to secure donations such as working with charitable foundations.
The act will be revoked July 1, 2028.
For years, Wyoming has ranked among the top states nationwide for its high suicide rate. In 2021, Wyoming saw 189 suicides, or 32.8 suicides per 100,000 individuals – the most reported since 2004 when the state health department began publishing data. The suicide rate for Wyoming is also more than twice the nationwide rate of 13.5 suicides per 100,000 people. The 2021 suicide rate is up from the 30.6 rate recorded by the health department for 2020.
The original version of the bill allocated $40 million from the legislative stabilization reserve account to the 988-system trust fund account and $6 million for the trust fund reserve account, but lawmakers opted to remove the appropriations.
Until 2020, Wyoming was the only state without a suicide lifeline call center. That year, the state legislature appropriated about $400,000 for two years to launch one. Previously, out-of-state suicide call centers fielded all calls from Wyoming.
Wyoming obtained around-the-clock in-state coverage of suicide calls thanks to federal funding when 988 launched in July. The two local call centers, Wyoming LifeLine in Greybull and the Central Wyoming Counseling Center in Casper, each received $60,000 in federal grants to expand their hotlines to 24/7 coverage.
Wyoming LifeLine now answers calls from 2 a.m. to 4 p.m. while the Central Wyoming Counseling Center takes calls from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.