Arizona State Senate votes on bill to boost suicide prevention training at schools

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- It's become a growing problem among teens across the country, and on Wednesday, teen suicide prevention was in the spotlight at the Arizona Capitol.

On Wednesday, the Arizona State Senate held a final vote on a bill that boosts suicide prevention training at schools around the state.

According to statistics, suicide remains the second highest cause of death between the ages of 15 and 29. In Arizona last year, a nine-year-old committed suicide. The problem is real, and Wednesday's legislation makes sense.

"I don't know who here has been impacted personally by a close friend or family member who's taken their own life," said State Sen. J.D. Mesnard. "It's tragic at any -- whatever age it happens, and I've had to deal with that with a friend of mine."

"This is an issue that has impacted all of our districts, but has really has been prevalent in the East Valley," said State Sen. Sean Bowie. He sponsored SB 1468, which will mandate suicide prevention training for schools who work with students from 6th grade through high school.

Aside from suicide prevention, the training will help identify warning signs and encourage intervention techniques. Lawmakers, however, know it won't erase the issue.

"Try as we might, as family members as parents even, we're not going to always see every little sign or catch every little sign, and then the worst is afterwards, you sit there kicking yourself, you know, what did I miss?" said State Sen. Mesnard.

"This actually has immunity from criminal and civil liability if someone acts in good faith. Which means someone could actually intend to do good things but do bad things, and there is no liability whatsoever on either the civil or criminal side," said State Sen. Eddie Farnsworth.

State Sen. Farnsworth voted against the bill, but should he have voted at all? The bill has a direct impact on charter schools, and reports of State Sen. Farnsworth pocketing more than $11 million on the sale of his East Valley facility stir questions of conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman openly questioned the conflict of interest issue with State Sen. Farnsworth prior to taking office. Superintendent Hoffman, however, was out sick on Wednesday.

People inside the Department of Education called the bill a "concrete step" on Wednesday, but openly wondered if the lack of counselors in the state will prevent this program from being implemented.

The bill heads next to the State House.

Senate Bill 1468