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Republican Harry Wilson opts out of governor's race

ALBANY — There’s one less name on the list of possible Republican challengers to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Former investment manager Harry Wilson announced his decision not to run Monday on Facebook. The 46-year-old Westchester County resident cited his family and four daughters and said he can’t commit the time needed to campaign or run the state.

“Faced with the difficult choice of being a great governor and inadequate father, or a good father who doesn’t run for office ... I have to choose the latter,” he said.

Wilson has experience in turning around troubled companies and served on the task force created by Democratic President Barack Obama to save the auto industry following the economic downturn. He was an unsuccessful candidate for state comptroller in 2010. He did not rule out a future run for office and said he believes his background and leadership could have helped the state move forward.

Cuomo is considered a possible presidential candidate in 2020 but has said he’s focused on seeking a third term this November. Democrats mentioned as possible primary challengers to the governor include Stephanie Miner, the outgoing mayor of Syracuse; former Democratic state Sen. Terry Gipson of the Hudson Valley; and actress Cynthia Nixon. Upstate Republican lawmaker Brian Kolb, the leader of the Assembly’s GOP minority, launched his campaign for governor last month. Other possible candidates include Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and state Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse.

New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox said he expects the GOP to mount a serious campaign against Cuomo and the Democratic Party.

“We’ve had one party that’s had the governorship for three terms,” he said. “It’s about their record and what they’ve done. And their record is a terrible record.”

Most big public colleges don't track suicides

BOSTON — Most of the largest U.S. public universities do not track suicides among their students, despite making investments in prevention at a time of surging demand for mental health services.

Tabulating student suicides comes with its own set of challenges and problems. But without that data, prevention advocates say, schools have no way to measure their success and can overlook trends that could offer insight to help them save lives.

“If you don’t collect the data, you’re doing half the job,” said Gordon Smith, a former U.S. senator from Oregon who became a prevention advocate after his son, Garrett, took his life in 2003 while attending college. “We need information in mental health if we’re actually going to be able to better tailor health and healing.”

The Associated Press asked the 100 largest U.S. public universities for annual suicide statistics and found that 46 currently track suicides, including 27 that have consistently done so since 2007. Of the 54 remaining schools, 43 said they don’t track suicides, nine could provide only limited data and didn’t answer questions about how consistently they tracked suicides, and two didn’t provide statistics.

Schools that don’t track suicides include some of the nation’s largest, including Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin, which have both dealt with student suicides in the recent past, according to news reports. There were at least two suicides at Arizona State in 2017. Health officials at Wisconsin said they’re finalizing a database to track the causes of student deaths.

“We will create a formal model to accurately document all student deaths at UW-Madison,” Dr. Agustina Marconi, an epidemiologist at the university, said in a statement. “Our findings and the standards we create will benefit other universities moving forward.”

The issue has come to the fore as some schools report today’s students are arriving on campus less prepared for the rigors of college. Many schools have increased spending on mental health services to counter what the American Psychological Association and other groups have called a mental health crisis on campuses.

Surveys have found increasing rates of anxiety and depression among college students, but some experts say the problem only appears to be worsening because students who might have stayed silent in the past are taking advantage of the increasing availability of help.

“It’s unfortunate that people are characterizing this outcome as a crisis,” said Ben Locke, who runs a national mental-health network for colleges and leads the counseling center at Penn State. “It’s counterproductive because it’s criticizing the exact people we’ve encouraged to come forward.”

Adding to the skepticism is that young adults in college have been found to have lower suicide rates than their peers. But they are also at an age when disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar depression often start to develop.

Federal health officials have sought to encourage data collection as part of a grant program named after Smith’s son, which has awarded $76 million to more than 230 colleges since 2005. Schools have separately spent millions on their own, often adding programs that teach basic life skills, and training staff across campus to identify students in need.

The U.S. Education Department asks colleges to collect data on student deaths but not suicides specifically, and a variety of factors can discourage schools from tracking it.

Often it’s difficult to confirm the cause of death, and medical examiners don’t always notify universities when a cause is determined. There are concerns about legal liability. Some families prefer to keep it private. Even schools that collect data differ on whether they count suicides that occur away from campus or during breaks.

And if the statistics become public, some schools fear it could damage their reputations.

“No school wants to be known as a school with multiple suicides. It’s not good for business,” said Nance Roy, chief clinical officer for the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that works with colleges and high schools on prevention.

Advocates in at least three states have pushed to require universities to collect suicide data — in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington — but without success so far.

After the 2014 suicide of freshman track star Madison Holleran at the University of Pennsylvania, one of her former teachers in her hometown of Allendale, New Jersey, was surprised to learn many universities don’t report suicide statistics. He pushed for a law that would have required the state’s public universities to collect and publicize annual numbers, but it never made it to a vote amid pushback from schools.

“He felt that it was something that the public had every right to know,” said Pam Philipp, a New Jersey mental-health advocate who lobbied for the legislation along with Holleran’s former teacher, Ed Modica, who died in 2017 at age 66.

A similar proposal by a state task force in Washington was sidelined amid budget woes last year, while lawmakers in Pennsylvania have yet to vote on recommendations to improve data collection.

National studies have found that suicide rates are on the rise in the United States, reaching 13 per 100,000 among all Americans and 12.5 among those ages 15 to 24. Much of the data on suicide comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does not specifically track college suicides.

The gap in information led Dr. James Turner to seek funding for a national reporting system for student deaths in 2009 when he was president of the American College Health Association, but the National Institutes of Health didn’t see the value, he said, and it never happened.

“I became puzzled, because we as a society are so interested in the health of college students,” said Turner, who is now retired from the University of Virginia. “Why is it we don’t have a comprehensive way of approaching this?”

Police: One dead in multiple crashes on snowy Thruway east of Buffalo

WILLIAMSVILLE — State Police said one person has died and one is seriously injured after several crashes involving numerous vehicles on the snowy New York State Thruway east of Buffalo.

Troopers said all lanes are blocked between Exit 50 and Exit 48A at Pembroke going into the evening rush hour Tuesday.

Trooper Michael Cassella in Albany said 15 to 25 cars and 10 tractor-trailers were involved in a series of collisions starting shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday. He said weather was a contributing factor.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said seven volunteer fire departments were at the scene and hundreds of cars were backed up.

Gusty wind with blowing and drifting snow has prompted blizzard warnings for northern Erie County overnight.

Today in History

On Jan. 3:

1521 — Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo X.1777 — Gen. George Washington’s army routed the British in the Battle of Princeton, New Jersey.

1870 — Groundbreaking took place for the Brooklyn Bridge.

1911 — The first postal savings banks were opened by the U.S. Post Office. (The banks were abolished in 1966.)

1938 — The March of Dimes campaign to fight polio was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who himself had been afflicted with the crippling disease.1959 — Alaska became the 49th state as President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation.

1967 — Jack Ruby, the man who shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy, died in a Dallas hospital.1977 — Apple Computer was incorporated in Cupertino, California, by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Mike Makkula Jr.

1980 — Conservationist Joy Adamson, author of “Born Free,” was killed in northern Kenya by a former employee.Thought for Today: “No one asked you to be happy. Get to work.”

— Colette, French author (1873-1954).