ENA-Supported Suicide Screening Legislation Reintroduced in Senate, House

February 27, 2021 Government Relations Legislation Suicide

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

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (Feb. 26, 2021) – The Emergency Nurses Association on Friday praised the reintroduction of key legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives focused on improving the ability of health care professionals working in emergency departments to identify, assess and treat patients with signs of suicidality.

The Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act creates a grant program that assists EDs with developing improved suicide risk protocols that can help save lives.

The need for such legislation could not be more urgent, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the mental health issues already plaguing the United States, and there is fear that those problems will continue to worsen in the near future, according to ENA President Ron Kraus, MSN, RN, EMT, CEN, ACNS-BC, TCRN.

“Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Emergency departments, and emergency nurses in particular, have the ability to identify and find help for millions of people at risk for suicide each year,” Kraus said. “This legislation creates ways for emergency nurses to save lives by more effectively screening high-risk patients and providing them the care they need.”

The need for enhanced screening is clear because statistics show approximately 11 percent of ED patients present with suicidal ideation and ENA research published in a 2018 study determined for improvements were needed to better identify at-risk patients in the emergency department. The study concluded enhanced suicide-risk assessment should include screening tools that are used continuously during a patients’ visit.

 Funding provided under the grant program created by the legislation 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.

The Centers for Disease Control Prevention and National Institute for Mental Health report that suicide claims 47,000 American lives each year – and the nation saw a 36 percent increase in the suicide rate between 2000 and 2018. The CDC reported in June 2020 that suicide risk among Americans increased dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 25 percent of young adults between the ages of 18-24 indicating they had seriously considered taking their own life.

Kraus praised the bipartisan backing of the bill in the Senate by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Angus King, I-Maine, as well as Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and Darren Soto, D-Fla., in the House.

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 50,000 members worldwide, ENA advocates for patient safety, develops industry-leading practice standards and guidelines and guides emergency health care 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