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    Can suicide hotline help CA Native Americans?



    Lynn La  LYNN LA MARCH 24, 2023

    From 2018 to 2021, 109 Native Americans took their own lives in California.

    Can the new national hotline help save some lives?

    This week in Sacramento, Assemblymember James Ramos, a member of the Serrano/Cahuilla tribe who is the first Native American to be elected to the state Assembly, partnered with Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services to promote the 988 national suicide prevention hotline to Northern California tribal communities.

    Several Native American and health care organizations also joined the Wednesday event. It followed a similar summit in February for Southern California tribal communities.

    • Ramos, a Highland Democrat: “Non-Native Americans often subscribe to the notion that we are all one culture, one language, one set of traditions. California has more than a 100 tribes, and each one is different. It is why I applaud Didi Hirsch for reaching out to the state’s tribal communities to hear how best to make 988 the effective, life-saving tool it is meant to be.”

    While suicide rates for Native Americans were lower in California, across the U.S., their rates are higher compared to the population as a whole, and the suicide rate for Native American men is three times higher than women.

    Various reasons contribute to suicides among Native Americans. A 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists limited access to health care resources, historical trauma, high unemployment and poverty rates and a “loss of cultural values and traditions that could otherwise provide anchors of strength in crises.”

    By holding the summits, Native American organizations hope to bring more awareness to the 988 hotline for those in tribal communities experiencing mental health crises. When 988 was established as a national hotline in 2020, it included a stipulation that allowed states the ability to fund call centers that would support the hotline. The number debuted in California in July 2022, with an initial $20 million investment and 13 call centers.

    Since taking office in 2018, Ramos has authored a number of bills concerning tribal communities. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several of them into law, which included establishing the California Indian Education Act and banning state usage of a historically derogatory term for indigenous women.

    Mental health issues in general also impact a broad range of residents in California, as evidenced by the drastic increase in suicide and overdose rates. To address these issues, Assemblymember Corey Jackson, a Democrat from Perris, introduced on Monday a package of mental health bills, one of which is a five-cent tax on candy that would be used to fund mental health programs.


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