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February 13, 2007

Bridge Authority to Install Hotline Phones
on Mid-Hudson Spans
1st Step in Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Plan

Highland, NY - The first step in a Comprehensive Suicide Prevention plan for the five Mid-Hudson bridges is expected to be approved by the Board of Commissioners of the New York State Bridge Authority this Thursday.

Direct dial phones will be installed at four of the bridges and link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a recent service funded by the Federal Government. Lifeline will route a call to the nearest available 24/7 mental health clinic that can provide qualified crises counseling to vulnerable individuals.

“Since the tragic events late in 2006, we have put full-time effort into finding reliable and comprehensive solutions and sought the best advice of both state and national experts in suicide prevention,” Authority Chairman Jim Sproat said.

Gary Spielmann, recently retired Director of Suicide Prevention for the NYS Office of Mental Health, has been consulting with the Authority since early January and leading the effort towards a comprehensive approach.

“No one deterrent can, in and of itself, prevent suicides on bridges. The phones will certainly help and are part of a larger plan of awareness, education, informed intervention and new technology that should have a greater impact on suicide prevention than any single deterrent alone,” Spielmann said.

In January, the Bridge Authority announced it would unveil a comprehensive package in late February. The announcement is now scheduled for February 22nd.

The first phase of the plan is modeled after the successful effort on the Mid-Hudson Bridge, led by the Dutchess County Office of Mental Health. The direct link via radio to the Dutchess County Office of Mental Health has provided invaluable service, but requires a direct line-of-site transmission to the facility. This type of system will not work for any other Mid-Hudson bridge.

Using a combination of DC and solar powered technology, more reliable cellular service and the Lifeline service to route the call - the authority will install multiple phones on the Kingston-Rhinecliff, Rip Van Winkle, Bear Mountain and Newburgh-Beacon bridges. 

The cost for equipment is $166,040 and includes the phones, power systems and boxes that can withstand extreme weather conditions.  

The phones will only be able to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and will be equipped for hearing aids. 

The only action necessary for a person in need of help is to open the box and pick up the receiver.  Additional signs and directions will be placed at strategic locations.

The Authority will order the phones immediately upon board approval and plans to install the phones as they are received, beginning with the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.