Thanks to a bipartisan bill that was unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, the United States is one step closer to creating a three-digit national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner introduced the legislation along with Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island in October 2019.
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S.2661, would require the Federal Communications Commission to designate 988 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which would also include veteran-specific mental health support. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line is 10 digits long — 1-800-273-8255.
Gardner said combatting the rising suicide rate in Colorado has been a top priority for him.
“With the Senate’s approval today, this bipartisan bill to create a three-digit suicide hotline is now one step closer to becoming reality,” he said. “This three-digit number would make it easier for Americans dealing with a mental health crisis to receive life-saving support. I will continue to push Congress to create this three-digit hotline, because too many people are suffering and don’t know where to turn to for help.”
The bill includes a report to improve the support services available to LGBTQ youth and other high-risk populations.
Gardner said calls to Colorado’s mental health crisis line have spiked 47% recently and about 60% of the calls are related to the novel coronavirus.
In April, he led a bipartisan and bicameral call to include the bill in the next COVID-19 relief package.
“As our country is facing an unprecedented challenge in responding to COVID-19, this three-digit hotline would play a critical role in saving the lives of many vulnerable Americans who are facing mental health emergencies during this period of isolation and uncertainty,” Gardner said. “Suicide does not discriminate between rural and urban areas or by income, and it causes heartbreak and loss in communities in every single one of our states. We must ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent these devastating outcomes from occurring, especially in these trying times as grief and uncertainty encompass our nation.”