Creep Kills


Most people would agree we should try to prevent suicides. When I drafted a resolution in 2015 directing the Health Quality Planning Commission to make recommendations to the legislature for such, the resolution passed both legislative bodies unanimously. When their recommendation came back in the fall of that year to spend $900K, I wasn’t sure I’d get the support. The Governor didn’t get the Commission’s recommendation in time, so he didn’t support it; but he didn’t oppose it either. In 2016 JFAC was willing to spend the money. And the Governor signed the budget.

I suspect Rep. Carolyn Troy figured everybody would support preventing suicides also when she ran her bill this year, especially when it claimed it wouldn’t cost the taxpayers a dime. It’s on the governor’s desk and I expect he will sign it. He shouldn’t.

Troy’s bill directs the Department of Education to do work that sets school districts to do work to deal with student suicides. What’s so bad about that? There is no doubt Idaho has a high teen suicide rate. And schools could be part of the prevention plan we need. In fact, they already are.

I can give Governor Otter two reasons to veto Troy’s bill. First, asking government agencies to do work and not paying to do it is the lie that cripples. Would you ask your contractor to add a deck on for free when he bid to remodel your kitchen? If he does the deck for free, he’s telling you that you paid him too much for the remodel. Such is the attitude of the legislature toward government workers on all levels. If our Governor has workers sitting around with time on their hands to do more for the taxpayers, then he’s not running a very tight ship. I don’t expect this argument to influence him much, since I saw the legislature continually, repeatedly, incessantly pass unfunded mandates, and our Governor signed them. Maybe his ship is loose.

But the creep in Troy’s bill is the real killer. When JFAC first funded suicide prevention in 2016 the personnel and funding were located in the Division of Public Health. They were directed to coordinate with other state agencies (including schools) and nongovernmental programs already doing good work. With passage of this law, the State Department of Education has its own mandate about suicide prevention. The suicide prevention ship now has two at the helm.

I really appreciate that Representative Troy cares about suicide prevention, and that our Governor has supported such efforts in the past. But if we can’t steer a straight course, if we keep crippling our workers and killing the sense of mission, it will get depressing. Let’s keep focused.


About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
This entry was posted in Idaho Politics, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.