Education Ministry ends suicide prevention program over missing budget – report
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Education Ministry ends suicide prevention program over missing budget – report

Official says Health Ministry has not supplied required funding to continue activities to identify those at risk and intervene

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Israeli schoolchildren, August 27, 2013. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Israeli schoolchildren, August 27, 2013. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90/File)

The Education Ministry on Monday froze a national program to prevent youth suicide, after notifying organizers that it had not received the Health Ministry budget needed to keep the service going during the 2019 school year.

The development came after the head of the Education Ministry Psychological Counseling Service, Hana Shadmi, last month sent a letter notifying district psychologists, supervisors, and principals that activities to identify risks and provide intervention would be put on hold, the Walla news site reported Wednesday.

Training groups will end, there will be no more assessments of students, and the ministry will not begin any new treatments, until the fate of the demanded budget becomes clear, Shadmi said.

She noted that in 2018, the second year of the initiative, the Health Ministry did not transfer a budget for the program despite several assurances and a Knesset committee meeting about the matter. The money needed to keep the program running was cobbled together from other education ministry budgets.

Last October, there were talks between officials at the Health Ministry and representatives of the Education Ministry, she said. A proposal was raised to give Education Ministry NIS 3 million ($810,000) for the program, but Shadmi said that was not enough.

The Health Ministry said in a statement that it was in the process of reviewing its own suicide prevention department and the way in which it operates, Walla reported.

“The national program to prevent suicide is directly administered by the office of the deputy director general of the Health Ministry,” the statement said. “The ministry is performing a general assessment of the procedures going on in the unit.”

A report from the Israel National Council for the Child released in December 2017 found that 773 minors were admitted to hospitals that year after attempting suicide, 306 of them below the age of 14. Of the overall total, 608 were girls.

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