Lawmakers seek upgrades to national suicide prevention hotline

07/31/2018 02:44 PM

By: Kevin Frey

U.S. lawmakers are seeking upgrades to the national suicide prevention hotline, including giving it its own version of 911.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the suicide rate has been ticking upward in recent years. In Kentucky, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. On average, one person dies by suicide every three hours, and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are taking notice.

“We need to address this and do it in a way that we can give the quickest attention to those who are in desperate need,” said Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-North Carolina.

The Senate and House each passed separate resolutions aimed at improving the suicide prevention hotline, a resource that often serves as a last line of defense. Currently, the suicide prevention hotline number is a less-than-memorable 1-800 number, and Congress wants the FCC to look into the possibility of designating the hotline a three-digit code similar to 911.

But a new number is only part of the problem. Lawmakers also want to know how to improve access to the hotline. Call volume is increasing, topping two million calls last year. One-third of callers waited 90 seconds to hear from a counselor, critical moments in a crisis situation.

“We need a system in this country that’s 24-7, apple to apple, with people on the ground in the state that are aware of the local resources,” said John Madigan, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Once signed, the resolution will give the Trump administration a few months to report back with specific recommendations to upgrade the hotline.

If you or someone you know needs assistance, the hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.

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