Posted: Jan 10, 2013 9:20 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - The House Judiciary committee held its first hearing on two bills that aim to reduce the suicide rate in Montana jails.
A bipartisan committee of legislators worked on these two bills throughout the interim and the sponsors of the bills, MT Rep. Margie MacDonald (D - Billings) & MT Rep Steve Lavin (R - Kalispell), hope to combine them and have one workable bill in the end.
The bills collectively would train law enforcement officers in suicide prevention, create a suicide screening program for inmates entering a detention center, and create a 24 -7 telephone crisis line that inmates could call and get one on one counseling with a qualified mental health professional.
"We have had 26 completed suicides in our jails in the last eight years. Just imagine if we had a system in place to significantly reduce that," MacDonald testified.
The funding mechanism for these bills is still being worked out.
Under House Bill 43, the Legislature would appropriate $250,000 to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services so local detention centers could apply for grants to run the program.
Under House Bill 69, the state would increase the surcharge from $10 to $20 on every defendant convicted of criminal conduct to pay for the prevention program.