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Senate passes Gardner bill for 9-8-8 suicide hotline number

Colorado Politics
May 14, 2020

By Michael Karlik

By unanimous consent on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved a bill from U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to establish 9-8-8 as the three-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.

“The tragic fact is: we lose a Coloradan to death by suicide on average every seven hours, and we must keep fighting to provide mental health support to Coloradans in need, particularly in this time of crisis,” Gardner said. “This three-digit number would make it easier for Americans dealing with a mental health crisis to receive life-saving support.”

The current 10-digit number is 800-273-TALK.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act as amended would authorize a fee on mobile or IP-enabled voice service providers to cover the costs of efficiently routing calls to various crisis call centers from the new number, and to fund personnel and crisis services.

Gardner’s bill also addresses several subsets of the population, including LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Project found that among this demographic, 45% of people ages 13-18 seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months. The bill also identifies American Indian, Alaska Natives, and people living in rural areas as demographics with elevated suicide rates. It charges the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration with creating a strategy to reach those groups and train crisis counselors to work with those callers.

The Federal Communications Commission began soliciting comments for the designation in December and will ultimately issue a rule enabling the new N11 number.

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