Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize important programs established under the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Memorial Act, which support community-based youth and young adult suicide prevention efforts.
“The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial programs save lives and give hope to young adults in need of rescue from despair. COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in mental health emergencies, and children and young adults of all ages are in crisis,” said Rodgers.
“A day doesn’t go by that I don’t talk to a parent in Eastern Washington who tells me their teenager is depressed,” she continued. “I think about the mom who told me she can’t leave her daughter alone because she harms herself. Or the mom who lost her 23-year-old son to a drug overdose after purchasing a fentanyl-laced pill he thought was Xanax.
“This is an urgent time to ensure these strong bipartisan programs can continue to support youth in our communities, and I appreciate all my colleagues who are leading this bill with me. Let’s continue to build on this work for a more secure future for the next generation, especially in providing healing for those struggling with the trials of life.”
The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act is named after the son of former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith. Garrett died by suicide in his apartment in Utah where he attended college in 2004. These bipartisan programs were last renewed in the 21st Century Cures Act and are set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2022.
In Eastern Washington, GLS Programs helped Washington State University bring additional mental health services to campus between 2016 and 2019. As a result, the university was able to implement campus-wide, collaborative trainings and help a growing number of students deal with the struggles of depression, anxiety, stress, and thoughts of suicide.
Studies have shown GLS programs to be effective at reducing youth suicide rates and saving lives. According to a study from 2006 to 2015, counties exposed to GLS initiatives had lower youth suicide rates and sustained them for a longer period of time. Additionally, a similar study found counties implementing GLS programs had significantly lower suicide rates for youth and young adults following implementation, which was estimated to have averted 79,000 suicide attempts.
Rodgers was joined in introducing this legislation by Representatives Lori Trahan (MA-03), Young Kim (CA-39), and Cindy Axne (IA-03)