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January 13, 2020

King Supporting Creation of Three-Digit Suicide Hotline

Bipartisan bill designates ‘9-8-8’ as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline, replacing the current 10-digit version

BRUNSWICK, ME –U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) cosponsored the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, bipartisan legislation to designate a three-digit phone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline and ensure states have the flexibility to strengthen local crisis call centers. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line are each 10-digits, which creates an additional barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support. Maine lost 274 people to suicides in 2019, and data from the 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey indicates that 16.4% of Maine high school students seriously contemplated suicide in the past year. – a total of approximately 8,900 students.    

“Each and every person we lose to suicide leaves behind heartbroken loved ones, grieving communities, and immense untapped potential,” said Senator King. “We need to do everything in our power to address this ongoing crisis, and that starts with making it easier for people experiencing mental health emergency to get help. In times of crisis, every second counts – so let’s do away with these 10-digit, hard to remember numbers and take a real step to save lives.”

“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, applauds Senator King’s support for S.2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, to establish a three-digit hotline number (988) for individuals in crisis,” said Cathy Streifel, Board Member & Survivor Outreach Volunteer for the Maine Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in Maine and an accessible, easy-to-remember hotline number can save lives. We thank Senator King for prioritizing suicide prevention, and we urge his colleagues in the Senate to follow his lead.”

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act directs the FCC to designate 9-8-8 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This line would include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support. Additionally, the legislation will authorize the ability of states to collect fees to ensure local call centers are able to support increased volume. In addition to Senator King, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act is also supported by Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Barasso (R-Wyo.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

Senator King has advocated to expand access to mental health and suicide prevention services. In September, Senator King announced his support for the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act, legislation that would help schools provide vital mental health services at schools across Maine. He is also an original cosponsor of the Native American Suicide Prevention Act, a bill which would help address the suicide crisis in Native communities by designing and implement statewide suicide intervention and prevention strategies.

This legislation is endorsed by: American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, American Association of Suicidology, American Counseling Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Legion, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Association For Ambulatory Behavioral Health, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Behavioral Health Association of Providers, Behavioral Health Link, Centerstone, Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies (CIPS), Depression Association of America, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Education Development Center, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, Illinois Association of Behavioral Health, Kevin & Margaret Hines Foundation, Mental Health America, Mental Health Colorado, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association for Rural Mental Health,  National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Board for Certified Counselors, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health,, Open minds, Postpartum Support International, RI International, SMART Recovery, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, Tourette Association of America, The Trevor Project, United Suicide Survivors International, 2020 Mom. 

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