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Maine investing $230M in behavioral health after gun deaths

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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine will invest $230 million in statewide suicide prevention and mental health services after a report found that more than 85% of gun deaths in 2020 were suicides.

The state report released this week concluded that 132 of the 154 people killed by guns in 2020 died by suicide. According to the report, 118 of the suicides affected men, The Portland Press Herald reported Wednesday.

The research conducted by the state’s Center for Disease Control and Department of Human Services coincides with the gun control debate that has reignited across the U.S. after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 Black people were killed in a racist shooting in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

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Many states have adopted so-called red flag laws, which take firearms away from people who may do harm to themselves or others. Florida passed a law after the Parkland high school shooting in 2018. In Maine, a “yellow flag” law requires a medical professional to sign off before guns would be removed. Republican Maine Sen. Susan Collins has pushed for something similar at the federal level.

State lawmakers and advocates have also called for an overhaul of Maine’s mental health system and further limiting access to gun ownership for people in crisis, the Press Herald reported.

Rep. Lori Gramlich, a Democrat who sponsored the bill that led to the report, said “the most alarming data point in this report is regarding suicides and that’s a mental health issue.”

Greg Marley, director of suicide prevention at the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Maine, said he was not surprised by the data but he hopes the report will increase awareness around the role of guns in suicide and creating preventive measures.

Maine is below the national average when it comes to gun violence, but has a much higher rate of suicide and suicide attempts using guns, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit which tracks gun deaths across the country.

This story was first published on June 8, 2022. It was updated on June 9, 2022, to correct the headline to say the state is investing money in behavioral health, not just suicide prevention; and the story to say money is being invested in suicide prevention and mental health services, not suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, Portland Press Herald.