Kansas senator introduces bill for suicide awareness training in schools after Olathe teen's death

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - A bill in the Kansas legislature would require schools to train teachers in suicide awareness to recognize possible warning signs. 

State Sen. Greg Smith of Overland Park introduced the bill this month after a Johnson County mom pushed for it following the death of her daughter.

"In Cady's case, she was sharing with others that she felt suicidal, and nobody knew really what to do with that information," said Cathy Housh, whose daughter, Cady, took her own life in 2014.

The Jason Flatt Act

The bill in Kansas is modeled after the Jason Flatt Act, which is already a law in 16 states. The Jason Flatt Act offers free online suicide awareness training for educators.

"This is a public safety bill; this is about saving people's lives," Smith told 41 Action News. "It's about taking a real simple step that doesn't cost any money to try to keep people safe."

Smith: A teacher & a parent

Smith also teaches at Shawnee Mission West and said he understands the demands teachers already face.

"There is an awful lot of training and things that we have to do outside of the classroom, but this is one I think is critically important because this could save somebody's life," said Smith, who would like to see the Jason Flatt Act in all 50 states.

Since his own daughter’s death in 2007, Smith has helped pass the Kelsey Smith Act in 21 states to allow law enforcement to find a missing person through their cellphone. 

The legislative process

The bill for the Jason Flatt Act is currently under review in the education committee of the Kansas Senate. Cady’s mother plans to testify at the committee’s meeting on Tuesday in Topeka.

"They need to hear from us that this needs to pass. It's the right thing, and it's not going to cost the state a dime for training. Why would we not do this?" Housh asked.

Housh hopes people will call their state lawmakers to ask them to support the Jason Flatt Act.

A similar bill across the state line

A bill in Missouri that’s also modeled after the Jason Flatt Act has yet to be assigned to a committee by the House Speaker. State Rep. Randy Dunn introduced the bill in December after he saw our story on Housh.

"That story really touched me and the reason, a large part of the reason, I wanted to file this bill," said Dunn.

If passed by state lawmakers, the bills in Missouri and Kansas would each take effect next year.

 

Resources: 

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call them at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

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Patrick Fazio can be reached at patrick.fazio@kshb.com .

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