Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, and Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, discuss bills about youth suicide prevention at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013.

SALT LAKE CITY — The House passed a bill Friday to create a state suicide prevention coordinator for the State Office of Education and require that the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health also designate a statewide suicide prevention coordinator.

Under HB154, the two offices will work together to implement suicide prevention programs both in schools and statewide.

“The bottom line is prevention works,” said bill sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy. “We don’t have one person in the state dedicated to this very preventable cause of death.”

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Eliason said he sponsored the bill in response to Utah’s alarming suicide rate. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Utah's youths, and two children ages 10-17 are treated each day for suicide attempts, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, questioned whether the Legislature had the constitutional authority to create such a position.

But several representatives from both parties spoke in support of the bill, including Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, who said that if one life is saved by having a suicide prevention coordinator, it will be a success.

The bill, which passed the House by a 67-2 vote, now goes to the Senate.

Mary Mellor