Incidents along Monroe St. Bridge spark suicide prevention conversation

KREM 2's Amanda Roley talks to the Spokane Fire Chief to see what can be done to make the Monroe Street bridge safer

SPOKANE, Wash --- First responders have been called to rescue suicidal individuals who jumped or fell from the Monroe Street Bridge three times in the last three months. The recent incidents have sparked a conversation among officials. 

Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said he would rather see more resources put toward mental health and suicide prevention. 

"We should identify these people who need help early, support all of the resources that are in the community and fund them fully, get them engaged," Schaeffer said. "We believe as an organization that would be the most effective use of the limited dollars that we have."

The Spokane Police Department said it does not have plans to assign officers to patrol Spokane bridges 24-7. However, Public Information Officer John O'Brian said officers are always looking for unusual activity when they travel across any of Spokane's bridges. 

More than 1,500 people are thought to have died after jumping or falling off the Golden Gate Bridge. In April, construction of a net under the historic bridge started and it's intended to prevent future suicides. Over four years, it will cost just more than 200 million dollars of local, state and federal dollars to build the net 20 feet below the bridge's sidewalk and extend 20 feet out over the water. 

The City of Portland is doing the same thing. Last year, crews installed a chain link fence on the top deck of the Fremont bridge. This cost the state $250,000. 

"If somebody really wants to commit suicide...just the one bridge having a type of netting device isn't going to stop them," Schaeffer said. "We've seen that with the Maple bridge, too. People crawl on top of the walk way to commit suicide."

Instead of spending thousands or millions of dollars on a net or fence, Chief Schaeffer suggested installing signs and a telephone on Spokane bridges that would direct people to a suicide hot line, but no official plans are currently in the works.

If you or someone you know needs confidential support in a time of suicidal crisis or emotional distress, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

© 2017 KREM-TV


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