JANUARY 31: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during the State of the State Address, Jan. 31, 2023, in the House Chamber at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Plan mentions high risk to LGBTQ community impacted by gender-affirming care rules, HB 68

BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a two-year plan for suicide prevention, including with it statistics many advocates cited in opposing anti-trans legislation passed by lawmakers, and administrative rules the governor proposed.

The 2024-2026 Suicide Prevention Plan “aims to promote life-saving strategies statewide,” according to an announcement by the governor’s office. The plan was developed in partnership between the RecoveryOhio initiative and the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, “incorporating input from more than 30 private and public organizations,” according to the governor’s office statement.

The plan’s main goals are centered around public awareness, data gathering, expansion of health care access and support for those with family members who have died by suicide.

Tony Coder, executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, wrote in an introduction to the prevention plan that suicide in the state “is at a crisis level, and it will take a statewide effort to reduce the rate of loss.”

“We need policymakers to create common sense legislation that will improve our behavioral health care system,” Coder wrote. “…We need all hands on deck to end suicide.”

The groups listed as most affected by suicide in Ohio include rural and Appalachian Ohioans, Ohioans with disabilities, veterans, males, young adults, and LGBTQ+ Ohioans.

“Nationally, 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth reported attempting suicide in the past year in 2022,” the report stated, also noting that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4.8 times more likely “to consider suicide” and 4.3 times more likely to attempt it than their heterosexual peers.

The report comes as transgender rights advocates and parents alike say new legislation by the Ohio General Assembly and administrative rules proposed by the governor could cause even more suicide risk to transgender youth, a group already at major risk of suicide, according to studies and medical data.

One 2023 national study from The Trevor Project found 41% of LGBTQ+ youth surveyed have “seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year,” and that “anti-LGBTQ victimization” contributes to raise rates of suicide risk.

House Bill 68 bans gender-affirming care for minors in Ohio, a measure that was supported by the Republican supermajority in the Ohio House and Senate, but was vetoed by DeWine.

The support from the legislature came despite hours of testimony, hundreds of submissions opposing the bill, public protests at chamber votes, and support for gender-affirming care from major medical organizations across the country.

DeWine’s veto was overridden by the House earlier this month, and by the Senate just last week, allowing the measure to go through, though it may face legal challenges in the near future.

Even as DeWine vetoed HB 68, he introduced an emergency rule on Jan. 5 prohibiting health care facilities and other medical facilities from “performing gender surgeries on minors,” despite the fact that Ohio children’s hospitals say they haven’t been doing so, even before the rule or legislation was created.

Two other rules have been proposed, one of which would establish a process through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to diagnose and treat a “gender-related condition,” but only provide “gender transition services,” not surgical services, according to the draft language.

A mental health evaluation and counseling would be required for at least six months before diagnosis or any treatment. That evaluation was criticized in public comment submitted regarding the draft language, in which Kathryn Poe, budget and health researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, said definitions in the draft rule “set a dangerous precedent for an organization concerned with the mental health of Ohioans, especially given th elevated risk for transgender Ohioans.”

The second proposed rule would direct the Ohio Department of Health to report data on gender care to the General Assembly and the public every six months, while also creating “quality standards for those hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities that wish to treat gender-related conditions.”

In the new suicide prevention plan for 2024-2026, goals specifically targeted toward LGBTQ+ youth include offering “learning opportunities to grow knowledge skills for specific evidence-based practices, policies and services to impact high-risk populations, including Black and LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.”

Included in proposed “action steps” to reduce suicide for LGBTQ+ is the creation of “workforce learning opportunities related to stress and risk factors of LGBTQ+ youth,” building “opportunities for affirming spaces and supportive relationships with trusted adults” and promoting anti-bullying policies in schools.

The report also cites The Trevor Project as a resource for “evidence-informed strategies” to be used in the state for improved suicide prevention outcomes.

The creator of HB 68, state Rep. Gary Click, called the Trevor Project an “advocacy group” in November as part of a committee meeting on the bill, claiming statistics on transgender mental health reported by the group were “a political statement” that was “designed to intimidate people like me from carrying legislation which would help protect young people.”

“I totally reject that my bill causes people harm,” Click said at the time.

Since passage of the bill and veto override, more than 100 families with transgender members have said they plan to leave the state as a result of the bill.

Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.


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