Governor Paul R. LePage today performed a Ceremonial Signing of a bill that will ensure the staff of all Maine schools is trained in suicide education and awareness and additionally pledged $44,000 from his contingency fund to support that effort.
Joining the Governor in his Cabinet Room for the signing of LD 609 "An Act To Increase Suicide Awareness and Prevention in Maine Public Schools" were more than a dozen suicide survivors, staff from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and legislators.
Family and friends affected by suicide shared their emotional stories with Governor LePage for about a half hour Tuesday. After the signing, the Governor said he was going to go one step further by providing $44,000 from his contingency fund to help support school personnel training that will be needed as a result of the legislation. "This bill has my full support, and I want to ensure that teachers have the training they need to move forward and make a difference," said Governor LePage. "I would like to work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to make this a matching challenge for communities across Maine," the Governor added.
The law requires all staff of Maine schools to participate in a one-to-two- hour suicide education and awareness training. It also requires one staff for every 500 students in each school district to complete a day-long Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper training so they can serve as a specialized resource for those with the basic training. Trainings will need to be renewed every five years. This bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously and was signed by the Governor last month.
Representative Paul Gilbert (D-Jay) sponsored the bill and attended today's signing. "I find that it is the most important bill that I have ever presented, and I can't see any other bill being more important than this one," he said.
Schools districts will need to have school personnel trained by the end of the 2015-16 school year to comply with the requirements of the law. There are a variety of options available to schools for meeting these requirements including already existing trainings offered by the Maine Suicide Prevention Program around the state. An online option is being planned. Districts are encouraged to review their crisis response plans including response protocols for completed or attempted suicides as they move forward with the in trainings. For more information about suicide prevention in Maine, visit https://www.maine.gov/suicide/.