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Governor eyes suicide prevention at Taos bridge

TAOS — Gov. Susana Martinez wants the state Department of Transportation to do more to prevent suicides at the iconic Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico.

The department announced Wednesday that officials are preparing a plan to install 10 phones at the bridge near Taos. The phones would be answered by crisis counselors with the New Mexico Crisis Access Hotline.

he Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos in 2006. (Mike Stewart/The Associated Press)

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos in 2006. (Mike Stewart/The Associated Press)

“My hope is that connecting those individuals with prevention experts will help them decide that suicide is not the solution to whatever problems they are facing,” Martinez said.

The design for telephones should be done by the end of August and submitted for bids before being installed in October, officials said.

The move follows efforts in other states that have taken similar measures.

A bridge across the Hudson River in New York, for example, has had phones connected to a suicide hotline for two decades. Officials say more than 50 people have used the phones and been persuaded to reconsider their intentions.

In California, the Bridge Rail Foundation, a group that has called for more suicide barriers on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, said a record 46 people jumped to their death from the bridge last year. it’s believed to be the highest number of suicides from a bridge in the nation.

Taos County officials estimated that six people a year commit suicide by jumping off the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

The steel deck arch bridge spans one of state’s most scenic vistas about 10 miles northwest of Taos along U.S. 64.