Lawmakers want to require NJ colleges to provide suicide prevention experts 24/7
Named after a New Jersey high school track star who later took her own life as a college freshman, a measure advancing through both houses of the state legislature would require that all colleges and universities in the Garden State have the right tools available to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
Madison Holleran, a graduate of Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, committed suicide in January 2014 while enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania.
Under the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act, students at New Jersey's institutions of higher education would have available to them, 24/7, mental health experts who are specifically trained in reducing student suicides and attempted suicides. The experts can be available on campus or "remotely by telephone or other means."
"Certainly, a staff person would be the preferred way, but if (colleges) want to band together with other schools, I'm sure that can be a workable situation," said Republican Assemblyman Scott Rumana, a primary sponsor of the bill.
He said it wouldn't be wise for schools to simply direct students to a national hotline in order to satisfy the requirement.
"You also need somebody who's going to be able to take action in the immediate vicinity in a crisis situation," Rumana said.
According to the latest data from the state Department of Children and Families, of the 233 youth suicides between 2010 and 2012, 72 percent were committed by young adults aged 19 to 24.
NJ Hopeline, a statewide suicide prevention hotline launched by the state at Rutgers University in May 2013, receives roughly 2,200 calls per month. Of the callers who are willing to share their information, about 45 percent are under the age of 25, which is considered "youth" in the state of New Jersey.
"I think that we as the adults really need to be thinking about what's going on with our young people and why do they seem to be having such serious issues," said Assembly Democrat Mila Jasey, while discussing the measure as chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. "Especially when on the outside, it looks as if they have everything going for them, as did this young woman who committed suicide."
As part of the act's requirements, students must be provided with the contact information of the appropriate experts within 15 days of each semester's start date.