By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA - The House Education Committee will hear testimony on a bill Wednesday  that would give grants to school districts to create suicide prevention programs.

The grants would come through the  Office of Public Instruction. House Bill 265 would also create statewide requirements and a framework for the prevention programs.

Democratic Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell is the sponsor of the bill. She said she’s talked to Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen about it and, “Suicide prevention is a priority of hers. She looked right in my eyes and said, ‘We need to do something,’ ” Dunwell said.

Funding for the program would come from a 1 percent increase in the sales tax for car rentals, raising the rate to 5 percent.

“Tourists would be paying for this for Montanans to enjoy the quality of life and address some of the mental health challenges many of us share,” Dunwell said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.