- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri lawmaker who tried to kill herself last year now wants to make police reports of suicides and attempted suicides closed records.

Rep. Genise Montecillo’s proposal to restrict access to those reports received approval Wednesday from a House committee.

Montecillo, a St. Louis Democrat, tried to kill herself in June 2015. She has said she worried that her ability to do her job as a legislator would be questioned if her attempt was made public.

Montecillo later found out the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the incident. She has since criticized the newspaper and said confidentiality is needed.

“Nothing about this story served any public interest, not to mention it inflicted additional harm to my family and hindered my recovery,” Montecillo said during a House hearing this week. She said current policy adds to what she described as stigma and discrimination related to suicide and that she wants to help others.

Post-Dispatch deputy managing editor Adam Goodman in a statement said the paper doesn’t typically report on attempted suicides or suicides but exceptions sometimes are made if public figures are involved or an incident occurs in a public place.

“We try to be as sensitive as possible in these situations, but we do take seriously our responsibility to cover our elected officials,” Goodman said. “The public should not be kept in the dark when it comes to events such as last year’s tragic suicide of Missouri Auditor and gubernatorial candidate Tom Schweich.”

Schweich, who was running as a Republican for Missouri governor, fatally shot himself in February 2015.

Montecillo’s bill would make police reports of suicide or attempted suicide closed records. Medical records included in police reports of sexual assaults and rapes would need to be redacted, though victims could access them.

Family members could access reports in both suicide and sexual assault cases if victims are minors or are incapacitated.

Police also could opt to release more information in suicide reports if they determine there’s a need to do so for public safety reasons.

Missouri Press Association attorney Jean Maneke spoke against the bill during a committee hearing this week. She told The Associated Press on Wednesday that many newspapers in Missouri “hesitate to publicize what’s clearly private.”

“But there are situations where there are public officials involved and the public has some concern,” Maneke said. She cited public interest in whether police are properly handling cases as an example.

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Police report bill is HB 2473.

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Online:

Missouri House: http://house.mo.gov

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

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