Samaritans Role in Shaping Public Policy

A key component of Samaritans mission is to advance and promote suicide prevention awareness, education, programs and initiatives which is accomplished through our role of consulting and contributing in the development of public policy on a national, statewide and local level.

Internationally, as the oldest and largest suicide prevention network in the world, Samaritans has worked for over 50 years with various nation’s governments, ministries and health organizations (from Argentina, Bosnia, France and Great Britain to Hong Kong, India and Zimbabwe) to advance suicide prevention, including the World Health Organization, International Association of Suicide Prevention and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the United States

Developing a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

Samaritans is one of the 12 founding members of the National Council for Suicide Prevention (NCSP), the national organization comprised of the country’s leading non-profit suicide prevention education, research and advocacy groups. We worked with (then) US Surgeon General David Satcher in developing the U.S.’s first National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (published in 2001; revised and updated in 2013).

Advancing National Suicide Prevention Legislation and Initiatives

Through our role on the National Council for Suicide Prevention (NCSP), Samaritans has consulted with The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and other federal agencies as well as members of Congress to advance legislation and government programs designed to respond to the public health problem of suicide, including the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, funding for the national Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the designation of National Suicide Prevention Day (September 10).

Other Public Policy and Advocacy Activities

Samaritans, in collaboration with fellow NCSP members and others in the suicide prevention movement, contributed to the outcry that convinced major automobile companies to cancel advertising campaigns that portrayed suicide in a lighthearted and comical manner. We have contributed to the dialogue about the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V); CDC death reporting data; and the creation and focus of the “Action Alliance,” the national public-private partnership charged with implementing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

In New York State

Making Suicide Prevention a Public Health Priority

Samaritans is a founder of the New York State Suicide Prevention Council, which was directly responsible for the New York State Office of Mental Health making suicide prevention a statewide public health priority, the creation of an annual $1.5 million state budget line earmarked for suicide prevention and the writing and publication of the three-volume Saving Lives compendium of best practices for NYC (of which Samaritans wrote the chapter on hotlines and support services).

Funding to Address Increase in Asian and Latina Suicide Attepmts

Advocating for increased funding to identify and treat those populations that are high-risk for suicide, Samaritans consulted with and helped advance New York State Assemblyman (and Assembly Mental Health Committee Chair) Peter M. Rivera’s legislation earmarked to respond to increased suicide attempts amongst NYC’s young Latinas and young and elderly Asian women.

Identifying Targets for Accelerating Methods of Suicide Prevention in NY State

Samaritans, represented by Executive Director Alan Ross, was one of the 30 individuals selected by New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Michael Hogan to participate in an all-day suicide prevention symposium of national suicide prevention experts at the Columbia University Psychiatric Institute with the goal of determining how to optimally invest New York State resources in a way that will save the most lives and do the most good.

“The reality is that the Samaritans of New York is responsible for the advancement of suicide prevention at the [NYC Dept. of Education] and for making it a priority for ongoing professional development and training.” – Senior NYC Department of Education Official

In New York City

Putting Suicide Prevention on the NYC Public School Health Agenda

Samaritans has been acknowledged as the organization most responsible for bringing suicide prevention education and training to the NYC Department of Education (DOE), which operates the City’s public school system of 1.2 million students in over 1,500 schools. As stated in a letter by a senior NYC DOE official, “The reality is that the Samaritans of New York is responsible for the advancement of suicide prevention at the [DOE] and for making it a priority for ongoing professional development and training.

Getting the New York City Council to Fund Suicide Education

Samaritans is the community-based organization credited with making suicide prevention a focus of the NYC Council’s public health policy. We were intrinsic in the design and promotion of the City’s first-ever public hearing on suicide, are the primary source of suicide prevention advocacy and education for the 51 Council Members and have guided them in designating funds for citywide public education training.

Promoting Suicide Prevention for NYC’s Returning Veterans

Samaritans worked closely with the NYC Council Committee on Veterans and NYC Council Committee on Mental Health policy staff as they sought to develop of a comprehensive response to the increased rates of suicide amongst our soldiers and returning veterans with the goal of helping those returning to the NYC area.

Addressing Increases in Suicide Attempts amongst NYC’s Adolescent Latinas

Responding to the 2010 CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBS) results that reveal significant increases in suicide attempts requiring medical attention by NYC Latina public high school students, Samaritans consulted with and provided testimony to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, NYC Council Committee on Women’s Issues and the NYC Council Committee on Civil Rights to help improve the City’s responses to at-risk Latina girls.

Advancing Collaborative Efforts to Improve Prevention in NYC’s Diverse Communities

Samaritans has been a major force over the past 10 years in advancing collaborations among community non-profit, academic and government organizations with the goal of improving and increasing the initiatives, programs, education and training devoted to providing services to NYC’s highest risk and most diverse communities through our role as founding member and coordinator of the NYC Task Force on Suicide Prevention.