The Kansas attorney general appointed a former Cabinet secretary for Gov. Jeff Colyer to be the state's first youth suicide prevention coordinator, officials said Tuesday.
Gina Meier-Hummel, who served as secretary of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, was appointed by Attorney General Derek Schmidt to the suicide prevention job created by the 2019 Legislature following recommendations of a task force.
Meier-Hummel serves as of Tuesday in the role on a part-time basis because of her obligations outside state government as executive director of the O’Connell Youth Ranch in Douglas County. She was deputy director of the victim services division under Schmidt in the attorney general's office before moving to the O'Connell Youth Ranch job.
"Gina will give the serious problem of the rising rate of youth suicide the attention it requires," Schmidt said. "I’m confident her leadership and implementation of the task force’s recommendations can begin to change the trend line so the number of youth suicides in Kansas stops increasing and instead begins to decline."
The latest information from the State Child Death Review Board indicated youth suicide in Kansas stood at three deaths per 100,000 population in 2016. The rate had steadily increased since 2005, when it was 1.1 deaths per 100,000.
Meier-Hummel led DCF until Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly was sworn into office in January. Before serving as Colyer's secretary of DCF, she was executive director of The Shelter, a nonprofit organization focused on crisis intervention for at-risk youths.
Before that, she was commissioner of community services for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and was DCF's director of children and family services from 2011 to 2013. Earlier in her career, Secretary Meier-Hummel worked for a foster care contractor
"I am honored to be appointed to this position by the attorney general and grateful to have the opportunity to work on this very important issue impacting Kansas families and communities," Meier-Hummel said.
In July, the attorney general’s office sought an advisory opinion from the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission on whether it would be acceptable to employ, on a part-time basis, a person primarily employed by a private entity that received youth placements through DCF contracts signed by Meier-Hummel while she was the agency's secretary.
The ethics commission concluded the individual could be hired by the attorney general without violating state ethics law.