Alexander: “Working Together, We Will Do Our Best” to Help Prevent Suicides on Natchez Parkway Bridge

Posted on August 28, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn., August 28, 2019 — United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said installation of call boxes at the Double Arch Bridge on the Natchez Trace Parkway “is the first phase” in helping prevent suicides at the bridge. 

“Several months ago Tracy Frist told me about Trish Merelo and the work being done by the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition and Centerstone to prevent suicides on the Natchez Trace Bridge. We all began working together to solve an urgent problem,” Alexander said. “I, along with Senator Blackburn and Congressman Green, started working with the National Park Service, Centerstone, the Federal Highway Administration and the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition to look at ways we could help prevent suicides and get people the help they need. The installation of these call boxes is the first phase.

“After the Parkway and the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network posted signs with the phone number to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2011, there were no suicides from the bridge for more than two years. These call boxes will help someone in crisis get the help they need.”

Alexander continued, “The next phase, which is designing and building barriers to prevent suicides on the bridge, is already underway and construction could begin as early as 2023. I look forward to continuing to work with the National Park Service, Trish, Sarah, and others to make the Natchez Trace Bridge safer.”

Since 2000, at least 32 people have committed suicide on the Natchez Trace Bridge. Over 1,100 Tennesseans committed suicide in 2017, the highest number since 1981. In 2018, Trish Merelo and Sarah Elmer, who had loved ones commit suicide on the bridge, formed the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition to prevent suicides on the Natchez Trace Parkway. 

In March 2019, Alexander’s staff hosted a meeting with the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition, Senator Blackburn’s staff, Rep. Mark Green’s staff, and the National Park Service in Nashville to discuss the potential of placing barriers on the bridge. On April 23, 2019, the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration announced plans to explore the feasibility of adding a pedestrian barrier to the bridge. Construction on the barriers could begin as early as 2023. 

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