U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today attended the launch of a new policy program, the Center for Native American Youth, at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC. The program, founded by former Sen. Byron Dorgan, is dedicated to improving the health, safety and overall well-being of Native American Youth through communication, policy development and advocacy.
Sen. Begich was one of the invited guests asked to participate in a roundtable discussion focused on suicide prevention and awareness among indigenous peoples.
"I appreciate the opportunity to hear the stories and the statistics about suicide and how it impacts Alaska. I know this is a particularly difficult problem among Alaska Natives, and the Center for Native American Youth is a great program which will help us deal with many issues going forward," Begich said. "Among the solutions, I believe, is a commitment to the best education possible -- particularly in rural areas. Because we know when young people have a quality education, they have more opportunities and more hope for the future."
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, Alaska Native/American Indians accounted for 35 percent of Alaska's suicides from 1999-2005. Suicide is now the 6th highest cause of death for Alaskans overall and 2nd most common cause of death for those aged 5-30 across the state.
Other speakers at today's forum included Larry EchoHawk, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, and Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, Director of the Indian Health Service.