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McAuliffe impresses on attention to detail on suicide prevention

terry mcauliffeI visited with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe this week with a group advocating for more funding for suicide prevention efforts.

The meeting was supposed to be brief: basically a quick photo op with the governor, who signed a proclamation marking Suicide Prevention Week in September at the request of the Virginia chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The photo op with AFSP turned into a nearly hour-long meeting with the governor and his policy director on the finer points of suicide prevention and what the state government can do to advance the effort to reduce suicide deaths.

McAuliffe asked several detailed questions of the group, showing command of the issue – and giving us a glimpse into why we were able to get on his schedule in the first place.

Among the questions: what can the state do better, how are efforts at lobbying Congress going, how much do various policy ideas cost, where does the funding come from?

Informed by the group that a top state-level legislative priority is mandating suicide-prevention training for teachers, counselors and administrators in public schools, McAuliffe offered advice on how to approach the General Assembly and the Department of Education to best achieve that.

He also made a predictable pitch for Medicaid reform, which he has been trying to get the Republican-majority General Assembly to buy into, to no avail.

His point there was well-taken in that room: pulling down the dollars we already pay into the federal coffers for healthcare would free up dollars for suicide prevention research, training and public awareness, among many other noteworthy public health goals.

I left impressed with McAuliffe for his commitment to engaging with constituents on an issue that is no doubt important, but in the context of the many, many fires that a governor has to put out on a daily basis, an hour for a photo op that turned into a policy discussion is about 57 minutes more than I expected.



Column by Chris Graham

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