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After years of advocating, a “vast first step” toward suicide prevention barriers on Rotary International bridges

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“It’s telling me every minute that we’re not doing it, that more people are at risk,” Ganley told the Globe. “Stop talking and make it happen.”

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He said he’s been defending curbs on Rhode Island’s bridges since 1985, and he’s happy to hear that the Turnpike and Bridge Authority has issued a request for proposals.

“I’m lofty,” Ganley said on Wednesday. “This is a vast first step.”

Laurie C. Silvera, executive director of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, said the authority issued the request on July 14, seeking proposals from competent consulting firms to conduct a “study and conceptual analysis” of suicide prevention measures at Jamestown Verrazano, the Claiborne Bell, Mount Hope and River bridges. Saconite.

Proposals are due to be submitted by September 4th. 3, and the award of the contract will be “subject to financing,” Silvera said.

“We wanted to solicit proposals for a study to inform decision-making as we examine whether and what type of preventive measures can be safely deployed on bridges,” she said in a statement.

De Palma, a Democrat from the Middletown area, and Representative Joseph J. Solomon Jr., a Democrat from Warwick, introduced legislation requiring suicide barriers on three of those bridges by January 4. 1, 2023.

It ended up “suspending bills for further consideration” during the legislative session that ended on July 1. But Dipalma said he and Suleiman expect the issue to persevere to be discussed when the General Assembly reconvenes — whether in a exceptional session in the fall or later. Regularly scheduled year courses.

Funding for the projects could come from the federal government, he said, possibly from a bipartisan infrastructure deal worth about $1 trillion that is now the subject of intense negotiations.

Dipalma said he and Solomon may amend the legislation to focus on the design of the bulkheads for the three bridges. The cost of analyzing and designing the bulkheads for the three bridges is estimated at approximately $1.5 million.

“It’s a case of a bit of a cut,” he said. “Before we can build anything, we have to analyze the design. I would like to thank Turnpike and Bridge Authority for coming out on this very significant issue.”

De Palma said the value of suicide prevention barriers is becoming clear in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the Sunshine Skyway Bridge has ranked among the deadliest bridges in the country in terms of suicides since 1987.

Over the former decade, this bridge has seen an average of one suicide per month. But in January, crews began installing diamond-patterned steel nets on poles to the bridge’s parapet wall. Since the $3.41 million project began, there have been no suicides from the bridge, and officials donate some credit for the recently completed suicide prevention barrier, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“It has proven to be a deterrent,” de Palma said. “As an engineer, it’s a case of asking: Are you doing what you’re supposed to be doing, and the answer is ‘Yes’. The evidence is there.”

DiPalma agrees with those who stress the need to provide mental health services to address the root causes of suicide. But he said, “We need to do both. We need treatment in the community, and we need to get rid of this place where so many people have committed suicide.”

The value of suicide prevention barriers is also apparent near home — on Cape Cod, said Dennis Banishas, ​​executive director of Samaritans of Rhode Island.

She noted that according to the Army Corps of Engineers, the bulkheads placed on the Sagamore and Bourne bridges have succeeded in reducing the number of suicides from those periods, and no Army Corps of Engineers suicides have been reported from these bridges since 2013.

“The Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t do their job frivolously and tell us the barriers to Bourne and Sagamore’s work,” Banishas said. “For Rhode Island, while each bridge is obviously unique, we are the creative case, and if we can put a man on the moon, if we can find things on the ocean floor, there is no excuse for someone to be competent to fall off the bridge.” .

For this project, Panicas said, “What I’m looking for is creativity, innovation, cost-effectiveness and a little humanity. The rest of the world is watching. It will be historic.”

Ganley rejects the argument that people will simply find another way to commit suicide. “This is the biggest legend on the planet,” he said. “If someone had a loaded pistol, you wouldn’t say ‘Don’t bother taking the pistol away from them—they would find another way to do it. “Those bridges are loaded with guns. We need to take that gun away.”

Ganley also rejects the argument that barriers will spoil the view from bridges. The Tampa Bay Times article quotes an official as saying that the marine network on the Sunshine Skyway bridge will “be nearly invisible” to motorists. “It really disappears against the sky and the water,” the official said.

Ganley said those who have lost family members to suicide from bridges want to see action. “It won’t bring back loved ones,” he said, “but no more people will get lost in these unprotected bridges.” “The goal is to make these bridges secure forever.”

You can reach the Samaritans of Rhode Island at (401) 272-4044, the Rhode Island toll-free at (800) 365-4044, or go to The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-Talk (8255).

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.


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