Rural counties in Arizona have more than double the rates of suicide than those in urban areas. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, officials have begun an effort to increase mental health and other services outside of Arizona’s biggest cities.
Governor Doug Ducey has commissioned a broad prevention project involving local and tribal leaders, school officials, mental health professionals and others.
"This issue has risen to the level of what we call a breakthrough project similar to what we did with the opioid epidemic. Bringing all the stakeholder groups together and putting a plan together in policy with a real sense of urgency," he says.
Ducey says he and other state officials are focusing on expanding mental health and counseling services, especially in schools though Arizona has the lowest student-to-counselor ratio in the country.
Arizona’s suicide rate was 24% higher than the rest of the country in 2017. Suicide rates in Navajo and Apache counties were twice those of Maricopa and Pinal counties in 2017. In La Paz County, it was more than triple