The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Wednesday unanimously approved the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S. 2661. The American Legion sees this as a positive step to improve access to mental health help for veterans in need.
The bipartisan act, supported by American Legion Resolution No. 377, would require the Federal Communications Commission to designate 9-8-8 as the universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental-health crisis hotline. Advocates for the hotline believe that designating a three-digit telephone number can transform access to mental health care.
“This easy-to-remember number would make it easier for Americans dealing with a mental health crisis to receive life-saving support," said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. "With the Senate Commerce Committee’s approval today, this bipartisan bill to create a three-digit suicide hotline became one step closer to becoming reality. I will continue to push Congress to create this three-digit hotline."
In addition to designating 9-8-8 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, it would include a provision for the Veterans Crisis Line giving veterans fast and easy access to veteran-specific mental health support.
“When they dial 9-8-8, they will have a warm handoff to the veteran crisis line,” American Legion Legislative Director Melissa Bryant said during a panel discussion in October. “The importance of connecting with someone who speaks veteran during a mental health crisis is crucial.”
More than 45,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States, including more than 6,100 veterans, said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Ill. “We need to do everything we can to prevent suicide, and that means improving the tools we have to help people who are suffering from depression or other mental health issues." Baldwin is happy the legislation is moving forward "so we can make it as quick and easy as possible for Americans in crisis to get the help and support they need through the National Suicide Hotline.”
The act is sponsored by Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Tammy Baldwin, D-Ill., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.