WHITE MOUNTAINS – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey recently signed into law a bill called “Jake’s Law” to address the need for better mental health services for teens in Arizona in an effort to curb the tragedy of suicide in that age group.
Jacob Machovksy took his own life when he was only 15 years-old living in the Valley with his parents. His mother, Denise Denslow, organized an effort to get “Jake’s Law” into the state legislature to try and keep what happened to her son from happening to any other youth.
The bill was signed into law March 4 after the state legislature unanimously approved it.
“Jake is more than his mental illness, and he is more than his death,” she said. “In a lot of ways this is his legacy. He was full of compassion, empathy, and love and he always looked out for others,” Denslow told the Scottsdale Progress.
“I know that this is what Jake would have wanted us to do. We can’t bring Jake back but we can make sure this doesn’t happen to other families. Thank you for allowing us to honor Jake,” she added.
So how does “Jake’s Law” help teens at risk of suicide or injuring themselves?
The law makes several important changes, including requiring insurers to put mental health on equal footing with physical health. It also increases access youth have to the care they need by prohibiting health insurers from denying them mental health services just because the service is provided on a school campus while also expanding behavioral health services in schools through a fund to help students who are covered by private insurance but can’t afford their copay or deductible. Jacob Machovksy was discharged from the hospital earlier than doctors advised due to costs of his care and lack of insurance.
The new law requires the Arizona Department of Education to conduct a study to determine the adequacy of behavioral health services schools offer. Arizona has a shortage of school counselors, and one of the highest student to counselor ratios in the nation. On average, there are 903 students for every school counselor in the state.
The Arizona Department of Health Services, “Suicide Prevention Action Plan,” published in January, indicated that the suicide rate among teens age 15-19 was around 12 per 100,000.
In Navajo County the suicide rate for all age groups is 45.2 per 100,000; in Apache County it is 39.5 per 100,000.