The Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday committed itself to financing a national program for reducing the number of suicides, which began this year as a pilot project.

Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) made the announcement in a special session on suicide prevention.

Shas MK Avraham Michaeli, who in the past has promoted several initiatives to reduce suicide, initiated the session. Michaeli said the pilot project has been very successful in Ramle, Rehovot and Kafr Kana and is slated to stop at the end of this year because it lacks NIS 600,000.

The pilot managed to significantly reduce the number of suicides in the three locations. There was not a single case of suicide in Kafr Kana since the project began, Michaeli said. Six government ministries are partners in the project, which should be expanded and not halted, the MK said.

The Health Ministry leads the project, which screens people for suicidal tendencies and treats them before it is too late.

Now, a budgetary problem for a national program has arisen, and its continued existence is threatened by a lack of NIS 8 million. The six ministries – which besides Health are Education; Welfare and Social Services; Industry, Trade and Labor; Immigrant Absorption; and Pensioners Affairs – have not committed themselves to finance a continuation, Michaeli said.

Health Ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev described the project in the session and said that staffers were specially trained to identify potential suicides and treat them. Multidisciplinary teams of family physicians, social workers, psychologists, mental health teams, teachers and school counselors are integrated into the project.

Gafni demanded that the Finance Ministry’s budget division allocate money to implement the program and asked the six ministries that are involved to apply for funds. If they are turned down, he said, they should update the Finance Committee, which would make sure during discussions of the 2013 budget that money be transferred from other uses.

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