Gianforte’s Bipartisan Bill Creating National Suicide Hotline Moves Forward
Congressman Greg Gianforte’s bipartisan legislation to create a universal telephone number as the National Suicide Hotline today took a step forward, unanimously passing the Communications and Technology Subcommittee.
The legislation designates “9-8-8” as the universal telephone number for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system, which is operated through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veteran’s Crisis Line.
“Unfortunately, mental health care is not available to many Montanans. In fact, more than 600,000 Montanans live in an area where there is a shortage of mental health professionals,” Gianforte said. “Ideally, everyone would have access to preventative mental health care. Folks who live in rural and frontier communities face overwhelming obstacles to receive mental health care. That’s why 9-8-8 is so important.”
“This is a critical piece of legislation,” Gianforte said. “We need to help Americans facing this crisis. Our nation faces an epidemic of suicide, and Montanans tragically are all too familiar with it.”
Montana has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country, with suicide as the leading cause of death for Montanans ages 15 to 24.
In August 2019, Gianforte introduced the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, H.R. 4194, with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Congressmen Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
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 in August 2019 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.
The bill 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, the measure 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.