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7:15am — State Moves To Prevent Taos Bridge Suicides

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Health Department seeks solutions for three suicides a year at Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. 

The New Mexico Department of Health began this week to look for solutions to the problem of suicides at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge west of Taos, The New Mexican in Santa Fe reported. 

Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil, who lives in Taos, this week asked the New Mexico Suicide Prevention Coalition to look into possible suicide-prevention ideas for the bridge, The New Mexican said.

New Mexico’s suicide rate — nearly 18 for every 100,000 people — ranked fourth in the nation, according to federal data, and the bridge has been the site of about three suicides a year since 1999, according to The New Mexican.

“If we could reduce the number by one or two or three a year, that’s not an insignificant improvement in the suicide rate,” Vigil told the paper. “If there’s an opportunity to make some place a little less prone to suicide, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

“I would welcome any help,” Taos Fire Chief Jim Fambro, who has helped retrieve many bodies from the scenic gorge over the past 28 years, told The New Mexican. “If it was harder to get over that railing, it would at least be a deterrent.”

In 2005, Fambro proposed building a higher bridge railing, but he told The New Mexican that a state transportation official told him the extra weight would make the bridge unsafe, adding, “From what I understand, there was nothing factual to support that.”

The Gorge Bridge, the country’s fifth highest, was completed in 1964, and people have driven there from as far away as Minnesota or the state of Washington to end their lives, The New Mexican said.

In San Francisco, where some 20 people a year leap from the Golden Gate Bridge, officials in October approved a plan to install steel nets below the bridge’s railings, a move long opposed because of the cost and how it would affect the bridge’s appearance, the paper reported.