ROHNERT PARK, Calif. (KTVU) - The North Bay SMART Train finds itself in crisis, awash in a recent spate of suicides that has rocked it to its core.
The SMART Train Board of Directors met today with one topic dominating all others: the string of recent deaths of four pedestrians, struck by high speed trains in the last 18 days.
There have now been eight deaths in the two years the line has been in operation.
"This is not a train crisis. This is a mental health and a public health crisis that we're dealing with," said SMART Train General Manager Farhad Mansourian.
What we're dealing with, says SMART's General Manager, is intentional deaths.
"We must come up with strategies on how to deal with suicides, impulsiveness and homeless issues," said Mr. Mansourian.
So, it's now time for a large scale, organized, multidisciplinary, expert response, work group.
"This Rapid Task Force. The idea is not to create another bureaucracy and another organization that just goes there and has meeting. The idea is, what can all of us do for the mental health professionals, they're the experts, so they can do their job," said Mansourian.
Beyond mental health treatment, SMART has assembled a Suicide Prevention Community Coalition of 37 law enforcement, rescue agencies, private health providers, public health departments, education organizations and media to not just advise but participate.
"To make people aware that there is hope with treatment. But, the hope is highest when mental illness is identified early," said Mary Francis Walsh of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Another expert says that comes through asking people up front and early, 'are they suffering from mental illness issues?'
"So, mentioning it is not going to anger the person. It's not going to change things. Actually it will more likely engage dialogue," said Buckelew Programs CEO Chris Kughn.
When people walk out in front of a 70-mile per hour train, the results are almost always instantly fatal.
Fact is, anywhere you have road level crossing in the North Bay or Peninsula or anywhere else, trains are a magnet for some suicidal people.
Suicide Prevention Resources:
Sonoma County Crisis Stabilization Unit
North Bay Suicide Prevention Hotline
Sonoma County Behavioral Health
Marin County Suicide Prevention Hotline
NAMI Marin helpline
Click here for links to more resources.