Courtesy of the Office of the Kansas Attorney General
TOPEKA – (August 6, 2019) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today announced the appointment of Gina Meier-Hummel to serve as the first Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator, a position created by the Legislature in May to implement recommendations of the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force.
“Gina will give the serious problem of the rising rate of youth suicide the attention it requires,” Schmidt said. “I’m confident her leadership and implementation of the task force’s recommendations can begin to change the trend line so the number of youth suicides in Kansas stops increasing and instead begins to decline. I look forward to working with her in this effort.”
Meier-Hummel has spent her career working on behalf of children and families. She currently serves as the Executive Director of O’Connell Youth Ranch in Douglas County. Previously she served as the Deputy Director of the Victims Services Division in Schmidt’s office. She also served as Secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) from November 2017 through January 2019. Prior to leading DCF, she was the Executive Director of The Shelter, Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on crisis intervention for at-risk youth in Douglas County and Northeast Kansas. Before that, she served in varying capacities at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), DCF and its predecessor agency the Department for Social and Rehabilitation Services, and KVC Behavioral Health System.
Meier-Hummel also served as a member of the Child Welfare Task Force, Commissioner of the Governor’s Mental Health Task Force, Chair of the Governor’s Subcabinet on Behavior Health, a member of the Social Services Policy Council, as well as on the steering committee for KanCare.
“I am honored to be appointed to this position by the Attorney General, and grateful to have the opportunity to work on this very important issue impacting Kansas families and communities,” Meier-Hummel said.
In June 2018, Schmidt and the Tower Mental Health Foundation formed the task force to survey efforts underway in Kansas to reduce the incidence of youth suicide and provide recommendations on further steps that could be taken. In May, the Legislature adopted several of those recommendations by passing the conference committee report on House Bill 2290, which created the coordinator position and requires the coordinator to:
- Lead the development, implementation and marketing of a website, online application and mobile phone application to facilitate communication with youth for the purpose of preventing youth suicide and promoting youth safety and well-being.
- Develop and promote multidisciplinary and interagency strategies to help communities, schools, mental health professionals, medical professionals, law enforcement and others work together and coordinate efforts to prevent and address youth suicide.
- Organize events that bring together youth, educators and community members from across the state to share information and receive training to prevent and address youth suicide in their communities.
- Gather, disseminate and promote information focused on suicide reduction.
Meier-Hummel will serve in a part-time capacity beginning today. Schmidt said other employees in the Attorney General’s office will support the suicide-prevention work as needed. Although the coordinator’s position was created by statute, no additional funding was appropriated to support it.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available from the State Child Death Review Board, the number of suicides in Kansas by persons 18 years of age or younger was 20 at a rate of 3.0 deaths per 100,000 population. Unfortunately, this continued the steady increase since 2005, which had eight suicides at a rate of 1.1 deaths per 100,000 population.
A copy of the task force report, including a full list of its members and its recommendations, is available at https://ag.ks.gov/ysptf.