Colorado suicide rate jumps to highest level in 20 years

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Last year wasn’t just bad for business in Colorado. It also marked the state’s highest suicide rate in 20 years, a statistic driven in part by the sour economy.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that 940 people committed suicide last year, a rate of 18.4 for every 100,000.

“The impact of suicide in Colorado is statewide, and it touches all ages of Coloradans, from children and adolescents to older adults,” said Jarrod Hindman, program manager of the department’s Office of Suicide Prevention. “In 2009, there as a significant increase in suicide deaths among those ages 25 to 44 and 85 and older.”

Hindman cited high unemployment rates, less access to mental health services, and the ongoing recession as reasons for the increase. The wars in the Middle East and the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment are also possible contributors.

Colorado’s suicide rate is 40 percent higher than the rest of the nation, he said.

“More Coloradans die by suicide each year than those who die in motor vehicle crashes or by homicide,” Hindman said. “Yet suicide continues to be viewed as an individual issue rather than a public health issue.”

Friday (Sept. 10) was Suicide Prevention Day, and community leaders are joining a global effort to raise public awareness about suicide and suicide prevention.

For more information, visit www.coosp.org.

Health care gets political

President Barack Obama’s health care initiative is getting toxic on the campaign trail.

With the country sharply divided over the sweeping new insurance law, Republicans and their allies are taking to the airwaves to attack it as elections near, often resorting to exaggeration and omissions to make their points. Democrats generally shy away from even talking about the subject, unless it’s to distance themselves from it.

Meanwhile, Obama allies try to draw attention to the most immediate provisions, ignoring the biggest — and most contentious — parts of the bill

A look at some of the claims made in ads airing in key contests:

— An ad by Crossroads GPS, a group founded by top Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, took aim at Democrat Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s contest for the Senate. It ran similar ads against Sen. Barbara Boxer in California and Democrat Jack Conway, seeking a Senate seat from Kentucky.

The claim: “Sestak voted to gut Medicare — a $500 billion cut. Reduced benefits for 850,000 Pennsylvania seniors.”

The facts: The law calls for cuts of about $500 billion over 10 years from projected payment increases to hospitals, insurance companies and others under Medicare and other government health programs. But the Congressional Budget Office places the overall cost of Medicare over 10 years at $7.1 trillion, making the reductions required by the new law amount to 7 percent of Medicare costs.

Not exactly a “gutting.”

— Radio ads by AUL Action, the legislative arm of Americans United for Life, targets three House Democrats — John Boccieri of Ohio, Christopher Carney of Pennsylvania and Baron Hill of Indiana — for their votes in favor of the health care law.

The claim: The three Democrats “voted for taxpayer-funded abortion in Nancy Pelosi’s health care bill … the largest expansion of taxpayer-funded abortions ever.”

The facts: Before the bill passed, Obama signed an executive order affirming long-standing restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortions. In the order, Obama specifically prohibited “the use of tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services (except in case of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered).”

Under the law, private plans in new insurance markets opening for business in 2014 may cover abortion, but payment must come from enrollees themselves, not from federal tax credits that will be offered to make premiums more affordable.

— The Health Information Campaign, a group supporting the law and founded by former Obama administration allies, is launching its own $2 million national cable and online ad campaign promoting the law and features that are now in effect or about to go into effect.

The claim: The law provides small business tax credits to make employee coverage more affordable, it will begin to allow young people to remain on their parents’ coverage until they turn 26 years of age, and it will prohibit insurers from dropping people from coverage when they get sick.

The facts: All those changes will indeed occur. But the most expensive provisions of the new law won’t go into effect until 2014. That includes the unpopular requirement that all Americans obtain insurance — some with taxpayer help — and that those who don’t will face tax penalties.

Scott named to national board

B.J. Scott, president and CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers, was named a regional representative to the national Association of Community Health Centers Board of Directors.

Scott will be representing Colorado for a one-year term. She has served on the association’s committees since 2005, helping guide health and elderly policy decisions.

Scott became CEO in 2001, and is currently also the executive director of the safety-net clinic’s foundation.

Amy Gillentine can be reached at 719-329-5205 or at amy.gillentine@csbj.com. Friend her on Facebook. The Associated Press contributed to this report.