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This week, the National Council hosted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, along with leaders from Congress, federal agencies and community groups, to discuss a proposal to establish “9-8-8” as the new national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline number. This announcement closely mirrors Congress’s work on the issue via the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019 (H.R. 4194/S. 2661), which would also designate “9-8-8” as the new suicide prevention hotline number, with a direct line to the Veterans’ Crisis Line.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with 47,173 people having died by suicide in 2017 alone. As Chairman Pai noted during the press conference, “this simple [dialing] number could be the lifeline that makes all the difference… Working together we can make this happen. We can and we will save lives.”
Chairman Pai was joined by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), who introduced S. 2661, Olivia Hussey from H.R. 4194 sponsor Representative Seth Moulton’s (D-MA) office, Dr. David Carroll, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Reyna Taylor, National Council for Behavioral Health, David Guth, Centerstone, and Sam Brinton, The Trevor Project.
On December 12, 2019, the FCC will hold a vote to establish the new three-digit hotline number. Following the Commission’s approval of the hotline, the new regulation will go through a period of public comment before the final rule is established and implemented. The National Council applauds this significant step forward in addressing the suicide crisis and will follow this story through the vote and regulation process with the FCC.