WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) on Thursday signed into law a bill authorizing $82 million in grants aimed at preventing suicide among young people.
The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (search) is named for the son of Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, who championed the legislation as a tribute to his 21-year-old son, who committed suicide last year. The senator, his wife Sharon, daughter Brittany and son Morgan attended the signing ceremony at the White House.
"Sharon and I are deeply grateful for the support we've received over the past year," Gordon Smith said. "Passing this bill was very personal to us because we wanted some good to come of Garrett's tragedy. There is so much more that can be done, but this is a very strong step forward in helping children and preventing tragedies like the one we experienced."
The law authorizes $82 million over three years to provide grants to states, Indian tribes, colleges and universities to develop youth suicide prevention (search) and intervention programs. It emphasizes screening programs that identify mental illness in children as young as sixth-graders, and provides referrals for community-based treatment and training for child care professionals.
Money for the grants has not been fully appropriated.
Jerry Reed, executive director of the Suicide Prevention Action Network (search), said the law is the first federal law specifically aimed at youth suicide prevention.
"Today is an important day for thousands of survivors, who have fought hard to turn their loss into the prevention of someone else's," said Reed, who attended the signing ceremony. "If fully funded, this bill can save the lives of thousands of young people."
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (search), more than 3,000 children and young adults take their lives each year, making suicide the third-leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24. Each year, more that 600,000 young people require medical attention for a suicide attempt.