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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: December 30, 2014 11:56 AM
From: Senator Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: Cosponsor memo #17 – Reintroduction of SR 345 – Joint State Government Commission Task Force on Suicide in Higher Education
 
In the near future, I will be introducing Senate Resolution 345 of the 2013-14 legislative session. This Resolution directs the Joint State Government Commission to convene an advisory committee for purposes of studying suicide in higher education. SR 345 passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously on September 23, 2014 but was not acted on by the full Senate prior to adjournment sine die.

Similar to SR 6 of 2013, which addressed violence prevention, the advisory committee would be tasked with making recommendations to the Senate regarding potential changes to statutes, policies, procedures, etc. to ensure that our institutions of higher education have the tools necessary to help students struggling with the pressures of higher education.

Suicide is ranked as the second leading cause of death among college-age students. It is the third leading cause of death for young people age 15-24. Studies show that approximately 1,100 suicides occur on college and university campuses nationwide each year. A 2011 survey found that approximately 6% of college students contemplated suicide and 1% attempted suicide in the prior year.

Unfortunately, student suicide has touched a number of our institutions of higher education recently. Suicide impacts not only the families and friends of the student but also other students and the campus environment in general. I believe convening an advisory committee to study the issue and make recommendations will allow the General Assembly to make an informed determination of whether the Commonwealth’s institutions of higher education are properly equipped to deal with the issue of student suicide or whether new policies, procedures or legislation may be necessary.

I am proposing a 25 member advisory committee to submit a report and recommendations by June 30, 2016. The advisory committee would consist of the following individuals:

• The Presidents of the Commonwealth’s four State-related universities, or their designees. The designee may be an officer or faculty member of the university or an employee of the university who provides services to students through a university counseling center, university health center, or through university residency and housing programs.

• The Chancellor of the State System of Higher Education, or his designee. The designee may be an officer of the State System of Higher Education, a President, officer or faculty member of a university within the state system, or an employee of a university within the state system who provides services to students through a university counseling center, university health center, or through university residency and housing programs.

• Two representatives, or their designees, of private institutions of higher education in this Commonwealth selected by the Joint State Government Commission upon the recommendation of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. Designees may be an officer or faculty member of the university or an employee of the university who provides services to students through a university counseling center, university health center, or through university residency and housing programs.

• One individual representing community colleges selected by the Joint State Government Commission upon the recommendation of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

• Three students enrolled in good standing at a college or university in the Commonwealth selected by the Joint State Government Commission. One student must be enrolled in a state-related university, one in an independent or private institution, and one in a State System of Higher Education institution.

• The Secretary of Health, or his designee.

• The Secretary of Education, or her designee.

• An individual representing the Department of Public Welfare’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, selected by the Secretary of Public Welfare.

• Eleven members of the public who are experts in suicide, physical, behavioral or mental health or any other profession relevant to the issue of student suicide. Of these members, 9 shall be selected by the Joint State Government Commission, 1 shall be selected by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and 1 shall be selected by the Minority Leader of the Senate

I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this important resolution. If you have any questions, please contact my Chief Counsel, Mark Mekilo, at 7-7112 or mmekilo@pasenate.com at your convenience.



Introduced as SR7