The botched case of a 14-year-old runaway who nearly killed himself in a Massachusetts lockup has prompted another high-level action plan against suicides, reports the Boston Herald. The boy’s Aug. 30 suicide attempt came after the Department of Youth Services vowed reforms after two suicides in December and February. “We are clearly not there and I want to deal with it,” said Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Ronald Preston. Family members and other sources described a series of missteps and missed opportunities to intervene before the boy wrapped a sheet around his neck. While in a state youth center, his history of mental illness and suicide attempts was not discovered despite his previous involvement with the state. He was not screened to see if he was likely to harm himself.
Preston said the August suicide attempt prompted soul-searching as high as the governor’s office. The result is a 45-day plan of action dubbed “Safety First” that began Thursday. The four-point blueprint for change is intended to find ways to boost clinical care, including suicide screening; improve information management, so in cases such as the August suicide a youth’s history will be known; see where more staff are needed and fill empty positions; and see if youths in state custody should be sent elsewhere. Preston has set aside $4 million to $5 million for the effort. Some reforms, like hiring more staff and cutting back on overtime, will cost little.