Legislation aimed at bolstering federal aid for local suicide crisis centers has advanced out of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce to the House floor for consideration, said U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY).
Katko, who pressed for similar legislation last year, said the funding was needed to help suicide crisis centers keep up with increased demand that is resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and responses to it.
“Suicide rates remain on the rise in our country, and there’s no question we need to devote greater resources to improving mental health and to bolster support for local suicide crisis centers, like Contact Community Services here in Syracuse,” Katko said. “In Central New York, crisis centers provide suicide prevention and counseling services and handle the majority of local calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline— all while working on an extremely tight budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already rising rates of mental illness and calls to the Lifeline, increasing the strain on local crisis centers. Now more than ever, we must ensure that in-need have access to lifesaving assistance through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This legislation takes steps to support and fully fund overburdened crisis centers to increase quality assurance, eliminate call wait times, and provide support to friends and family of those in crisis who call the Lifeline. I urge Congressional Leaders to swiftly bring this bipartisan measure to the House floor.”
The legislation, Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act, would increase funding for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline from $12 million to $50 million; require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop and implement a plan to increase quality assurance, eliminate call wait times, and implement evidence-based practices like follow-up calls; require increased data sharing between the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the CDC; and require a study and report to Congress from both HHS and the Government Accountability Office on HHS’s plan to reform the Lifeline and improve its operations.