LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - State lawmakers sent a trifecta of suicide prevention legislation to the governor this week.
The legislature gave its final stamp of approval Monday to a bill that requires the Arkansas Department of Health to maintain a call center for the suicide prevention hotline. Calls currently go out of state.
"They don't know where to send an Arkansan to get help in Arkansas," said Rep. Bob Johnson, D-Jacksonville, who sponsored the bill. "We're going to know what to do and get that help as soon as possible."
Rep. Johnson expects the call center to be up and running by summer.
Lawmakers passed along the other two bills to the governor's desk Thursday.
One measure appropriates $2.3 million for suicide prevention to the Behavioral Health Services Division of the Department of Human Services next fiscal year. The money would come from federal grants.
"We just had the state provide us with a bucket you might say to put the grant money into," said Rep. Tim Lemons, R-Cabot, who sponsored the bill. "We've been hearing some very good reports that grants are on the way. We're going to be able to get information to a wide array of people, all the way from junior high and high school to higher education all the way to our veterans."
The other bill, sponsored by Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, requires colleges and universities to provide mental health and suicide prevention services to incoming students.
March 30 will forever be a somber day for one Little Rock family, but this year, the legislation's success gave it a new, more positive meaning.
"The legislature has done a good thing, three good things," said Tommy Foltz. "It really doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or Republican or what neighborhood you live in. It can hit you no matter who you are."
The Foltz family lost their middle schooler to suicide three years ago Thursday.
"I don't feel like we were the victims," said Tommy. "The victim was Wil."
"We like to keep his memory alive," added Tiffani Foltz.
Wil's parents honored his life Thursday by asking friends and family to come by and place a flower in a large wreath.
"We want to take it down to the capitol and show the impact and the ripple effect of one suicide on hundreds in a community," Tiffani said.
They believe the legislation is vital to keep a conversation going that no one wants to have.
"It is hard to talk about," Tommy said. "It's understandable why, but it is something that nobody needs to be ashamed of because it can happen to anyone. People with depression don't think there's any help. All of these things will provide help."
KARK's D.J. Williams is one of the hosts of the Dallas-based program.
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