10/17/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/17/2020 21:14
Washington, D.C. - Today the President of the United States signed S. 2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which was introducedby U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Jack Reed (D-RI). This bipartisan legislation designates 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline, and companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Seth Moulton (D-MA).
NOTE: Click here or the picture above to download Senator Gardner's remarks.
'I applaud the President for signing my common-sense, bipartisan legislation to shorten the national suicide hotline from ten digits to three easy-to-remember numbers: 9-8-8,' said Senator Gardner. 'Colorado tragically has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, which is why I've made it a priority to work with my colleagues across the aisle for years to make mental health support more available. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased our state's mental health needs, and during this unprecedented challenge suicide prevention is now more important than ever. This change to 9-8-8 will make it easier for Americans dealing with a crisis to access mental health support that could save their lives.'
'The easily accessible 9-8-8 dialing code will bring our nation's mental health crisis response system into the 21st century. We thank Senator Gardner for his leadership in securing unanimous passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act through Congress, this historic effort will save lives,' said Robert Gebbia, CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the nation's largest suicide prevention organization.
'CBHC appreciates the relentless effort it took to pass The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. A dedicated three-digit-number for suicide prevention has been a goal of advocates for years, but it is more important than ever now considering the increased demand for behavioral health services that providers are seeing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, where more and more people are experiencing isolation, depression, anxiety, and increased substance use. We extend our sincere thanks to Senator Cory Gardner for leading the charge to pass this historic legislation and we look forward to continued work together to ensure access to high quality behavioral health services and supports,' said Frank Cornelia, Deputy Director of the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council.
'We could not be happier that the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act is being signed into law by the President,' said Steve Kjonaas, Legislative Director of the Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars. 'This will empower Veterans, Family Members, and Caregivers to reach the help they need in a crisis much faster and without the frustration of looking up a long and complicated phone number. Dialing 988 in the near future will be quick, reliable, and simple, as it will saves hundreds of lives each year.'
'The designation of 9-8-8 is a great step forward toward the mental health of the nation. We thank Senator Gardner and all those who helped get this to the finish line, and hope it will lead to additional future funding and support for a far more effective system of earlier, rapid, and effective intervention for all people experiencing mental health challenges and emergencies,' said Paul Gionfriddo, President and CEO of Mental Health America.
'As the first explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive bill to ever unanimously pass the House and Senate, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 not only makes history, but will also undoubtedly save countless lives,' said Sam Brinton (they/them), Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project. 'Our research shows that 40% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past twelve months. This legislation addresses this crisis by requiring - for the first time - specialized services for LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Project is grateful to Senators Gardner and Baldwin and commends their leadership in championing the expansion of vital suicide prevention resources.'
Calls to the mental health crisis line in Colorado spiked 48 percent in March and April 2020 due in part to COVID-19. Roughly 60 percent of those calls to the crisis line were related to the ongoing pandemic.
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S. 2661, designates 9-8-8 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which would include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line is 10-digits long, which is a barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support. The bill includes a report to improve support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and other high-risk populations.
Until the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finalizes the technical implementation of 9-8-8 as the nationwide number, anyone seeking help should still call 1-800-273-8255.
Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.