Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization Introduced in 113th Congress

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation to support campus suicide prevention is introduced in the 113th Congress
By Alexandra Ginsberg

On July 18, 2013, Representatives Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., introduced the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2013 (H.R. 2734) in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 2734 closely mirrors the Senate bill (S. 116), which was introduced on Jan. 23, 2013, by Senators Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. The Senate bill currently has 18 co-sponsors. 

Both pieces of legislation would reauthorize the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and maintain the Youth Suicide Early Intervention and Prevention Strategies Program for States and Tribes, the Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Services and Outreach on Campus Program, and the Suicide Prevention Technical Assistance Center. In addition, S. 116/H.R. 2734 would make changes to the Campus Program that allow for flexibility in the uses of funds to better meet the diverse, documented and growing needs of students. More specifically, S. 116/H.R. 2734 allows for funds under the campus program to be used to provide: 

  • Mental health and substance use disorder services including prevention, promotion of mental health and voluntary screening.
  • The development and implementation of evidence-based and emerging best practices.
  • Educational and outreach activities on suicide prevention.
  • The employment and training of personnel. 

In addition, S. 116/H.R. 2743 authorizes states and tribes to develop and implement: 

  • Early intervention, assessment and treatment services.
  • Information and awareness campaigns.
  • Tools to evaluate intervention and prevention practices and strategies.
  • Training programs for providers and child care professionals. 

This marks the first time in two Congresses that bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act has been introduced in both legislative bodies. Education Government Relations staff worked closely with both the House and Senate offices in developing the language for the respective bills. In recent months, Education Government Relations staff worked with the office of Rep. Davis to identify and secure a Republican co-sponsor for the legislation. Having bipartisan and bicameral support for this reauthorization increases the potential for this legislation to be taken up this Congress. Education Government Relations is grateful to the many APA members who have advocated tirelessly for the introduction of this bill during the past year. 

First authorized in 2004, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act has supported youth suicide prevention grants in 51 states (including D.C. and Guam), 48 tribes or tribal organizations, and 138 institutions of higher education. Federal attention to the issue of suicide prevention remains critical as suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24, and results in more than 4,600 lives lost each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). 

APA's Education Government Relations Office has supported the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act since its inception, and was instrumental in developing the Campus Suicide Prevention initiative. Education Government Relations staff and APA members will continue to meet with members of Congress to strengthen broad bipartisan support for the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2013 in the 113th Congress. 

Alexandra Ginsberg is the legislative assistant in APA's Education Government Relations Office.