ENA-backed Legislation to Improve Suicide Screenings Introduced in U.S. Senate

December 10, 2019 Government Relations Legislation Suicide


Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act aims to improve suicide risk protocols

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (Dec. 10, 2019) – The Senate introduction on Tuesday of the Emergency Nurses Association-supported Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act marked another important step toward improving the ways emergency health care professionals screen identify, assess and treat patients with signs of suicidality.

S. 3006 – and H.R. 4861, its companion bill in the U.S. House – would create a grant program within the Department of Health and Human Services that is focused on assisting EDs to develop better suicide risk protocols that can help save lives.

The funding provided under this grant program can be used by hospitals to:

  • Provide training to emergency health care providers on identifying and treating high-risk patients
  • Establish policies and best practices for emergency departments to improve the identification, assessment and treatment of individuals who are at high risk of suicide, as well as developing best practices for coordination of care and discharge procedures for those patients
  • Hire behavioral health professionals who specialize in treatment of patients with suicidal ideation
  • Improve access to care for those at risk for suicide using telehealth and developing other approaches to reduce the boarding of patients in the ED

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics cited by the National Institute for Mental Health, suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming approximately 47,000 American lives each year. From 2001 to 2017, the U.S. suicide rate increased 31 percent. 

The emergency department is often the place within the health care system that provides care for patients with suicide-risk factors, with up to 11 percent of ED patients presenting with suicidal ideation. In a 2018 study published in the Journal of Emergency Nursing, ENA researchers identified a need for improvement in the identification of at-risk patients in the emergency department and that additional efforts to enhance suicide-risk assessment  should include screening tools that are used continuously during a patients’ ED visit.

ENA praised Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., Doug Jones, D-Ala., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Angus King, I-Maine, for their bipartisan work to bring this key legislation to the Senate for consideration.

About the Emergency Nurses Association

The Emergency Nurses Association is the premier professional nursing association dedicated to defining the future of emergency nursing through advocacy, education, research, innovation, and leadership. Founded in 1970, ENA has proven to be an indispensable resource to the global emergency nursing community. With more than 50,000 members worldwide, ENA advocates for patient safety, develops industry-leading practice standards and guidelines, and guides emergency healthcare public policy. ENA members have expertise in triage, patient care, disaster preparedness, and all aspects of emergency care. Additional information is available at www.ena.org.

ENA Media Contact:

Dan Campana
Director of Communications