Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara Announces Passage of Bill to Establish Rural Suicide Prevention Council

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who serves on the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Mental Health, announced the passage of Bill A7188, a crucial piece of legislation aimed at reducing suicide rates in rural communities across New York State.

The bill, which Santabarbara co-sponsored, has now passed the Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.

The legislation establishes the rural suicide prevention council to address and mitigate the factors contributing to high suicide rates in rural areas of New York State.

The council will include the commissioners of the Office of Mental Health, Department of Health, and Department of Agriculture and Markets, along with twelve additional appointed members: four by the governor, eight by the state legislature.

The Council will be charged to identify barriers to mental health and substance use treatment and prevention services, examine causes and conditions related to suicide and suicide attempts in rural areas, identify vulnerable populations and the prevalence of suicide among them, including farmers and agricultural workers, assess the capacity for peer support and mental health crisis services, evaluate the use of the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline in rural areas and propose strategies to increase its utilization, make recommendations to improve service coordination among state agencies, and suggest funding initiatives to enhance access to mental health, substance use, and suicide prevention services in rural areas.

The council will submit an annual report to the Governor and Legislature by January 15, starting in 2024.

"In 2020, the suicide rate in rural areas of New York State was double that of urban areas, with rural counties experiencing an average suicide rate of 15.2 per 100,000 people compared to 7.5 per 100,000 in urban areas. Establishing the Rural Suicide Prevention Council is a vital step in addressing these issues and providing the necessary support to reduce suicide rates in our rural communities," said Assemblyman Santabarbara.

“Establishing the Rural Suicide Prevention Council is an important step towards understanding and addressing the unique challenges faced by rural communities in accessing mental health and suicide prevention services. This bill will help save lives by breaking down barriers to treatment and ensuring that vulnerable populations receive the support they need,” Santabarbara added.

The bill now awaits the Governor's signature to become law. Once signed, the Rural Suicide Prevention Council will begin its work to make impactful recommendations and drive legislative and policy changes aimed at reducing suicide rates in rural New York.