Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget plan to cut funding to suicide prevention programs comes at the wrong place and the wrong time.

Although Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach said the department is looking for federal alternatives, funding is by no means guaranteed.

These cuts come at a time when suicides and attempted suicides have hit troubling rates.

Local efforts to prevent suicide have mostly come from the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, a small group with three full-time employees.

Pawlenty cuts would total about $1 million, and the Yellow Ribbon program's budget would lose about $100,000, a 50 percent reduction. The group would have to cut its staff in half as a result.

The Yellow Ribbon program is working. It has organized suicide prevention training and programs at area schools that help kids recognize suicide warning signs in their classmates.

Teachers report they've been notified by students when another student is having suicidal thoughts or tendencies. They've been able to intervene in many cases.

For the relatively small amount of money involved in these programs, the good they do is tremendous. It is lifesaving.

The $1 million cut to a dozen or so suicide prevention programs in the state would take effect July 1 if the governor's budget is approved as is.

Mandernach says the cuts were part of Health Department prioritizing and the department is trying to focus on core health functions.

While such efficiency efforts are laudable in most cases, it just doesn't make sense to cut corners on suicide prevention.

Suicide prevention is even more important to young people. The loss of their lives can't be measured in dollars and cents.

-- The Free Press (Mankato)