PORTLAND, OR -- There were 15 youth suicides reported in Central Oregon in 2017, and Bend State Representative Cheri Helt believes it’s a crisis that has solutions. She's supporting a bill creating a statewide School Safety and Prevention System to help school districts combat bullying and harassment, prevent suicide and promote student wellness. "It’s getting a lot of support," she told KATU's Steve Dunn on Sunday, "We need to make sure that we implement solutions that are going to work and this is a solution that they’ve looked into; it’s had a lot of eyes on it." She adds, "I sat on the school board and every time we lost a student, it is very personal and it is a very difficult thing, and it is preventable. As a community and as a state, we need to come together and prevent suicides from happening, and it’s a conversation that we have to have."
But, Helt says new legislation is just one approach, "We really need to be looking at our staffing ratios, as well." The Bend Republican says, "For years, in Oregon, we’ve been cutting staff and the crux of the problem is we don’t have enough teachers, we don’t have enough counselors and we don’t have enough people in our buildings. So, it’s also going to take adding back staff. We have not recovered from the recession in Oregon, in our schools, and we have to make sure that we change that trajectory."
Click HERE to watch Steve Dunn's full interview with Rep. Cheri Helt (R-Bend). All this week, KBND and newsrooms across Oregon are shining a light on issues surrounding suicide, and possible solutions. For more "Breaking the Silence" stories, visit BreakingTheSilenceOR.com.