Home Bipartisan message to Senate: ‘We cannot afford to wait’ on support for 988 lifeline

Bipartisan message to Senate: ‘We cannot afford to wait’ on support for 988 lifeline

988 lifelineBipartisan mental health leaders from the U.S. House wrote to Senate leaders urging the passage of two House-passed bills intended to support the ongoing rollout of the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

The lifeline’s new 988 number, intended to be easier to remember and to dial, began operation this past Saturday.

House suicide prevention task force co-chair Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA-08) pressed for Senate passage of H.R. 2862, the Campaign to Prevent Suicide Act, introduced by Beyer and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). They also asked for passage of H.R. 2981, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act, introduced by John Katko (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Beyer.

In the letter, the U.S. House legislators wrote:

“On July 16th, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned to a three-digit easy to remember number, 9-8-8. The number is accessible 24/7, from anywhere in the United States, as a three-digit dialing code, which will connect people to care and support for any mental health-related distress, including mental health or substance use crises. Americans can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

“The 9-8-8 line is intended to be a more visible, universal option for people in crisis, and should also help reduce the pressures on law enforcement and hospital systems. But that only works if Americans know about the number. On May 12, 2021, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2862, the Campaign to Prevent Suicide Act. This bipartisan bill is designed to educate the American public about the new number, as well as educate the public about how to respond to individuals in crisis and connect them to resources.

“Recent reporting on the transition to 9-8-8 also reveals concerns from State health officials and local call centers on whether they will be able to handle the incoming volume with the new change. On May 12, 2021, and as an amendment to H.R. 7666, the House passed H.R. 2981, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act. H.R. 2981 is a bipartisan bill designed to address these concerns with improved funding, oversight, and enhanced quality assurance planning for the suicide prevention hotline.

“We cannot afford to wait. We ask that you expedite consideration for H.R. 2862 and H.R. 2981 to support the successful launch of the new 9-8-8 number.”

A signed copy of the letter is available here.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.