Statement on Governor Healey’s Veto of Critical Youth Suicide Prevention Services

Samaritans, Inc. looks forward to working with our legislative partners to swiftly reinstate this state funding.

Samaritans, Inc. is deeply disappointed that Governor Maura Healey today vetoed $1.4 million dollars, or 77% in the final FY24 budget allocated for Samaritans, Inc.’s critical suicide prevention services, including striking entirely the funding for the innovative Hey Sam text program – the state’s only youth peer-to-peer mental health helpline. To date, Hey Sam has served nearly 1,700 youth who will no longer have access to this crucial judgment-free, anonymous, youth-led intervention service due to the substantial funding cut. Without funding in the FY24 budget, the Hey Sam program may be forced to close, silencing one of the few places where our Commonwealth’s young people can safely ask for help with their mental health.

“The drastic reduction in funding today for Hey Sam cuts suicide prevention services for our youth at the height of an ongoing mental health crisis.” said Kathy Marchi, CEO and President of Samaritans, Inc. “The funds for this program are not found in other line-items and the closure of this program would adversely impact thousands of young people in crisis.”

Since its inception, trained Hey Sam youth peers have responded to over 2,600 messages from their teen peers in need, de-escalating 100% of all imminent risk conversations and avoiding the need to engage emergency services. There could not be a worse time for a cut in state funding for youth mental health services aimed to prevent suicide. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey data of over 17,000 high school students released in 2023 found that nearly 1 in 3 teenage girls seriously considered attempting suicide. Suicidal ideation is even higher among LGBTQ youth; the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the year prior, with numbers rising above 50% for transgender and nonbinary youth.

Contrary to what the Governor notes in her veto message, the Hey Sam program is NOT supported by other accounts in the FY24 budget and is not funded through an expansion of the 988 program, which is distinct. DPH funding for suicide prevention services through line-item 4513-1026 has supported and will continue to support suicide prevention programs that work in tandem with Hey Sam. This veto will most assuredly result in no state funding for the Hey Sam program. This comes at a time when Samaritans, Inc. planned to direct some of the dedicated state resources to expand the hours of the Hey Sam program, which has seen incredible demand as well as unmet need outside of normal operating hours.

Samaritans, Inc. looks forward to working with our legislative partners to swiftly reinstate this state funding. We have been grateful for the longtime support of leadership in both the House and the Senate, who have continuously over the years seen the value of our work and supported our dedicated funding.