Legislation would create three-digit suicide hotline

Legislation would create three-digit suicide hotline

Bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the Senate would designate a three-digit phone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act would direct the Federal Communications Commission to designate 9-8-8 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line. The hotline’s current telephone number is 10 digits.

After dialing 9-8-8, pressing “1” would route a caller to the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support.

The bill also requires the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to report to Congress its plans to provide high-risk populations who call the hotline with access specialized services and how it will facilitate specific training programs for high-risk communities through the hotline.

“In America, we lose about 45,000 people every year to suicide, including more than 6,100 veterans, making it one of the leading causes of death in this country,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who introduced the bill, said. “We need to do everything we can to prevent suicide, and that means improving the tools we have to help people who are suffering from depression or other mental health issues.”

Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Jack Reed (D-RI) also introduced the bill, and it has 28 cosponsors.