Washington State House Democrats


New Washington law requires suicide prevention training

OLYMPIA—Washington will become the first state in the nation to require mental health professionals and other frontline care providers to receive training in suicide assessment, treatment and management starting June 7, 2012.

The Matt Adler Suicide Assessment, Treatment and Management Act of 2012 (ESHB 2366), sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, passed the Washington State Legislature by overwhelming margins, with support from professional associations, veterans groups and individuals personally affected by this public health crisis. Gov. Christine Gregoire signed it into law March 29, with namesake Matt Adler’s young family and other supporters standing by.

Gov. Gregoire signing the Matt Adler Suicide Assessment, Treatment and Management Act of 2012 on March 29. Left to right: John Lee, Director of the WA State Dept. of Veterans Affairs; Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney; Lonnie Johns-Brown, lobbyist; Ted Wicorek, WA State Veterans Legislative Coalition; Jennifer Stuber, Matt Adler’s widow; Rep. Tina Orwall; Sue Eastgard, King Co. Suicide Prevention Coalition. The children: Zoe and Jake Adler – daughter and son of Matt Adler and Jennifer Stuber.

“Health professionals are licensed by the state with the expectation they will protect the public, but not all clinicians receive this critical suicide prevention training,” said the Des Moines Democrat, noting that suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Washington, costing more lives than homicide, HIV/Aids and traffic accidents combined. “With the training programs in suicide assessment, treatment, and management, Washington’s health professionals will be better able to meet the needs of our residents,” Orwall added.

The law requires mental health professionals, social workers and occupational therapists to receive six hours of training every six years, as part of their continuing education requirement, starting in 2014. Some exemptions apply, as outlined in the ESHB 2366 FAQs. The various disciplines’ oversight authorities will develop a model list of appropriate peer-reviewed programs for submission to the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2013.

The bill is named for a 40-year-old Seattle attorney, husband and father of two, who took his own life in February 2011 in the midst of a battle with severe depression and an anxiety disorder. His widow, University of Washington social work professor Jennifer Stuber, believes early detection and competent care in the treatment of suicidal thoughts could have saved his life.

She hopes other states will follow Washington’s lead “and develop similar measures to make sure health professionals get the training they need to help keep suicidal patients safe.”