ALBANY, NY (Erie News Now)--BEFORE THEY LEFT FOR THE SUMMER, LAWMAKERS PASSED A BILL TO ESTABLISH A RURAL SUICIDE PREVENTION COUNCIL.  

FOR THE TOBIA FAMILY, THIS legislation IS PERSONAL.  
 
About tHREE YEARS AGO, ELISA AND JOE TOBIA LOST THEIR SON MATTHEW TO SUICIDE.  
 
SINCE THEN, MATTHEW HAS BEEN THEIR MOTIVATION TO IMPROVE THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM—BY MAKING LAWMAKERS AND STATE LEADERS AWARE OF THE MANY BARRIERS FACING INDIVIDUALS TRYING TO GET HELP IN RURAL COUNTIES.  
 
“One of the last things he said was ‘why doesn’t anybody want to take care of me? And help me?’ And I went into this mental health care naively thinking we had resources honestly,” said Elisa. 
 
ELISA SAid HER FAMILY FACED BARRIERS SUCH AS LONG WAIT TIMES FOR INPATIENT CARE, under staffing, AND LIMITED BEHAVIORAL AND MENTAL HEALTH FACILITIES CLOSE TO WHERE THEY LIVE IN RURAL STEUBEN COUNTY.
 
LOOKING AHEAD, JOE SAid THIS LEGISLATION COULD GO A LONG WAY TO ADDRESS SOME OF THESE ISSUES.  
 
“In the long run, it can save lives. There’s no doubt about it in my mind. It will save lives down the road,” he said. 
 
SOME LAWMAKERS SAid IF SIGNED INTO LAW, THE COUNCIL COULD HELP IMPROVE COLLABORATION OF CARE AND SERVICES AMONG VARIOUS STATE AGENCIES.  
 
IT COULD ALSO HELP REDUCE THE STIGMA AROUND THE ISSUE.  
 
“Our kids, our younger people, people in need, people who are hurting need to know that there are services and care available for them and we want them to access those services and we certainly don’t want the stigma of utilizing the mental health services to prevent people from going forward,” said Assembly Member Phil Palmesano (R-Corning).
 
THE LEGISLATION CURRENTLY AWAITS THE GOVERNOR’S REVIEW. IN THE MEANTIME, PALMESANO SAid LAWMAKERS WILL BE DOING THEIR PART TO EDUCATE THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE ABOUT THE importance OF THE BILL.  
 
 
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU LIVE IS THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE PLEASE CONTACT A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL OR CALL 988.