Senate readdresses Native American suicide crisis

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, led the Senate’s strong bipartisan approval of S. 47, her Natural Resources Management Act.

Bipartisan legislation addressing the high rate of suicide in Native communities is back before the House and Senate.

The Native American Suicide Prevention Act was reintroduced in the Senate on Feb. 13 by Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and in the House by Representatives Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Tom Cole, R-Okla.

The bill was first introduced in the Senate by Warren, Murkowski and 15 of their colleagues during the last Congress. It has been introduced in the House by Grijalva since 2013.

The suicide epidemic on Native American reservations continues to reach crisis levels and is the second leading cause of death for Native people ages 10 to 34, Murkowski said.

The clear need for Native communities’ involvement in development of suicide prevention strategies, tribal nations and tribal organizations are too often left out of planning and execution of statewide suicide prevention programs, she said.

This legislation would amend the Public Health Service Act to require states or state-designated entities to collaborate with each federally recognized Tribal nation, Tribal organization, urban Indian organization, and Native Hawaiian health care system in the state in developing and implementing statewide suicide early intervention and prevention strategies.


“Alaska consistently tops the charts with some of the highest suicide rates in the country, with a disproportionately high rate in Native communities,” Murkowski said. “Our goal is to save lives and to give hope and support to so many Alaskans in need.”