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Gianforte introduces bill creating ‘National Suicide Hotline’

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WASHINGTON – Congressman Greg Gianforte recently introduced bipartisan legislation with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Congressmen Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) to create a universal telephone number as the National Suicide Hotline. 

The legislation designates “9-8-8” as the universal telephone number for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system, which operates through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veteran’s Crisis Line. 

“Our nation faces an epidemic of suicide, and Montanans tragically are all too familiar with it,” Congressman Gianforte said. “This bipartisan bill provides an essential resource for anyone facing a mental health crisis and helps our communities grow healthier and stronger.”

Montana has the highest rate of suicide of any state in the country, and suicide is the number one leading cause of death for Montanans ages 15 to 24.

“I am truly honored to lead on the Utah-based initiative to get a three-digit, easy-to-remember, dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Suicide hits close to home with an average of two Utahns taking their life every day. This dialing code is an essential step in providing critical resources to those in emotional distress,” said Rep. Stewart.

“This bill will save lives. When your house is on fire, you don’t have time to look up the fire department’s phone number – that’s why we have 9-1-1. In the same way, you should know what number to dial when a friend, a loved one, or you yourself are experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Rep. Moulton. “This is a major milestone on the road to where mental healthcare in America is just part of healthcare, period. It’s one part of ending the stigma around mental health and making Americans healthier and stronger.”

“As a former chief psychiatric nurse, I have spent my career advocating for more accessible mental health resources in our communities. In my home state of Texas, thousands of lives are tragically lost to suicide every year – averaging a life lost every two hours. This bipartisan effort to designate a three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will simplify access to these resources for our constituents in their times of need,” said Rep. Johnson.

Background:

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act follows legislation calling for a study to determine the best three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The FCC released its report last week recommending “9-8-8” as the best three-digit dialing code for the lifeline. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act assigns the FCC’s recommended number as the easy three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

This legislation authorizes states to collect a fee limited to supporting local crisis call centers that are affiliated within the national network or enhancements of such services. This allows states to fund the suicide hotline services similar to that of existing emergency services.

In addition, this legislation sets a deadline of one year for the FCC to complete the nationwide upgrade of the legacy switches to support 9-8-8. It also requests a report from the FCC to determine the feasibility of providing an automatic dispatchable location for 9-8-8 calls.

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