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Lawmakers vote for student IDs to contain suicide hotline

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Michigan lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a measure that requires schools that issue student identification cards to include a 24-hour crisis and suicide prevention hotline on each card for grades 6-12.

State Rep. Andrea Schroeder

State Rep. Andrea Schroeder’s "Save Our Students" legislation is geared toward preventing suicide and helping young people when they need help the most, officials said.

The measure unanimously passed the Senate on Wednesday and unanimously passed the House on Thursday. The measure next advances to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her consideration. It is expected to take effect in the 2021-22 school year.

“We have services available to help our young people when they are struggling, don’t know where to turn, and desperately need someone to listen,” said Schroeder, R-Independence Township. “The ‘Save Our Students’ initiative will help connect those services with our young people in their greatest time of need.”

The suggestion for Schroeder’s plan came from grieving Oakland County parents who lost their 15-year-old son to suicide last year. Kris and Joe Miller shared their story about their son, Nikolai, with legislators as the Save Our Students proposal advanced. Schroeder said she was also inspired to action by the suicide death of her daughter’s classmate, who died one year ago Tday.

Joe Miller (left) and his wife Kris Miller hold a photograph of their teenage son, Nikolai, from their Waterford home on Monday, February 17, 2020. Nikolai died by suicide in 2019.

The Millers said teens need immediate access to readily available help when they are in emotional pain — noting kids aren’t going to Google for this type of information during a crisis.

“Printing the number for a 24/7 hotline directly on student identification cards means the information is always close at hand and available,” Schroeder said. “It could be a lifeline for children and their families.”

Michigan’s youth suicide rate has been climbing over the past decade. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people in Michigan between ages 10 and 24, behind accidents. Youth and young adult suicide rates in Michigan and nationally have been climbing steadily since 2007, and the state outpaced the national rate from 2011 to 2017.

School districts would print phone numbers for a suicide prevention hotline of their choosing — local, statewide or nationwide — on each card for students in grades 6 through 12.

There is no mandate to issue identification cards — the proposal applies only to schools that choose to provide students with ID cards, and the hotline number can be easily incorporated into card designs, officials said.

Schroeder’s plan also calls for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide informational materials for schools related to suicide prevention, depression and anxiety. Schools would be encouraged to display this information on their websites and in select locations within school buildings.

jchambers@detroitnews.com