AFSP is proud to report that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 71 of 2014 (formerly HB 1559) into law on June 26, 2014, making Pennsylvania one of only 5 states to require comprehensive suicide prevention policies in schools statewide.
Under the new law, beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, Pennsylvania schools must adopt age-appropriate youth suicide awareness and prevention policies and include 4 hours of training in youth suicide awareness and prevention every 5 years in professional development plans for educators serving grades 6-12. Schools may incorporate a youth suicide awareness and prevention curriculum into existing instructional programs. The Department of Education will be required to develop a model youth suicide awareness and prevention policy and a model youth suicide awareness and prevention curriculum for use by schools and to make these and other guidance and resource materials publically available online.
AFSP thanks the many Field Advocate and Chapter volunteers who were integrally involved in supporting HB 1559 throughout the legislative process, urging lawmakers to broaden the scope of the bill, vote for the bill in committee and on the floor, and ultimately adopt it as law. AFSP volunteers also worked with local media to educate the public about the importance of the bill’s provisions. AFSP extends our sincere thanks to the Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative (PAYSPI) and the Pennsylvania Child Death Review (CDR) for their tireless advocacy and unending support. AFSP would like to express our gratitude to Governor Corbett, Pennsylvania Representative Frank Farina, and the many co-sponsors of HB 1559 for their leadership and support in bringing HB 1559 across the finish line.
The training and education requirements in HB 1559 will ensure that all Pennsylvania educators are equipped with the skills and confidence to recognize when students may be at risk and to refer those students for additional help, and that students are empowered to seek help when they notice signs of mental illness or suicide in themselves or their peers. The required policies and procedures in HB 1559 will also ensure that Pennsylvania schools are guided in responding safely when a suicide occurs in the school community and in supporting school staff, students, and families.
There are several existing organizations within Pennsylvania, including our network of AFSP Chapters, that have offered to donate their suicide prevention expertise and resources to implement HB 1559 at no additional cost to the state or to Pennsylvania schools.