Ron helps Oregon “break the silence” on topic of suicide

As part of the statewide Breaking the Silence reporting project on suicide, Ron spoke recently in Portland about both the need for mental health funding and for fresh suicide prevention innovations that could save lives.

“Breaking the silence around suicide demands speaking up loudly about what actually reduces suicide and then defending any attack that would undercut those successes,” he said during a news conference at the new Multnomah County Health Department headquarters.

Ron opened his remarks by recounting a call he got in college from his mother about his brother Jeff deeply cutting his wrists. He said it was unclear if Jeff, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was trying to kill himself but the searing memory left a lifetime impact.

“I made a judgment then that I was going to do everything I could to advocate for my brother,” Ron said. “And when I had a chance for public service, I had an opportunity to make this a special priority.”

As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over Medicaid, he noted that Medicaid is the largest single payer of mental health services nationwide. And he said Medicaid’s expansion allowed more than 300,000 additional Oregonians to get the mental health services they may need.

Ron also said he will continue to press the Federal Communications Commission to act fast to establish a new three-digit number dedicated to suicide and mental health. He said at a time that suicide rates are rising in Oregon, a suicide prevention hotline is urgent business.

Ron was joined at the news conference by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran and representatives from both the American Federation for Suicide Prevention and Lines for Life.