Samaritans and our volunteers thank the members of the Legislature for their attention to the crisis surrounding teen suicide and for restoring the $1.4 million funding for Samaritans and our Hey Sam suicide prevention program.
We would especially like to thank Senator Becca Rausch and Representative Ted Philips for being champions for Hey Sam and Samaritans in the budgeting process and the override.
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and is a public health crisis that needs to be addressed. The Hey Sam platform was launched by Samaritans to provide a private, safe space where young people can text with a peer who will listen and empathize in a nonjudgmental way.
Since the launch of Hey Sam in 2022, more than 2,000 young people have used the program, 75 young people are engaged as peer-to-peer text support volunteers, nearly 3,000 text conversations have been received, and many young lives have been saved. We have expanded our hours to reach more young people and our volunteers say that their peers who text Hey Sam in distress thank them for listening and saving their lives.
The $1.4 million funding restored to the budget will allow Samaritans to scale and improve the Hey Sam program, continue to grow support for suicide loss survivors, and educate the public about suicide prevention. This funding will help to save more lives with technology upgrades, more multilingual capabilities, and increased awareness of resources among young people.