PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island is the latest state to require public colleges to do more to prevent suicides.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a measure into law this month that requires public colleges and universities to establish a plan for promptly addressing students’ mental health needs. The new law discourages relying solely on off-campus services.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says 11 states now have a law addressing suicide prevention in higher education.
The University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and Community College of Rhode Island don’t appear to have suicide prevention policies that meet the new requirement. They do offer counseling and mental health services and support the state’s efforts.
URI told lawmakers it was well-positioned to implement the provisions of the legislation and it has resources in place and a system to respond if there’s a concern with a student. CCRI said it’s currently working on a formal policy on suicide prevention.
At Rhode Island College, Chantelle Pseekos, director of the counseling center, said she supports any requirement that helps keep students safe and destigmatizes mental health services.
“We, as campus communities, can collaboratively lessen the number of suicides that occur,” Pseekos said.
The nonprofit Jed Foundation works to prevent suicide among teenagers and young adults. Nance Roy, the foundation’s chief clinical officer, said the law will make schools review their services and identify any gaps.
Nicole Gibson, director of state policy and grassroots advocacy at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said she likes that Rhode Island’s law encourages schools to look at what they can provide on campus, and not just rely on providers in the community.
“That would make seeking help just seem more typical,” she said, adding that the foundation actively supports and tracks suicide prevention bills.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in June that suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state.
In Rhode Island, the rate rose about 34 percent from 1999 to 2016, according to the data.
The schools must present their plans, along with any new policies and training being added, to legislative leaders and the Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education by Jan. 1.