FCC Approves Three-digit suicide hotline

After a vote in December of 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed to move forward with plans that would designate a three-digit number to direct callers to the National Suicide Hotline. The three-digit number is 988 and calls to mind the emergency nature of 911 calls. FCC staff recommended this number as it is short and easy to remember.

The five-member commission unanimously voted to approve the proposal, which is now open to rulemaking and public comment. The new proposal would call for carriers to implement 988 as a national suicide prevention hotline within 18-months. The FCC is now asking for input on implementation.

In its report to Congress, the FCC noted that, in order to implement the hotline, it would cost $520 million for the first year and $175 million for the second year. These costs would include an increase in hotline call center personnel and a widespread public awareness campaign.

Legislation in the Works

A bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate that would establish 988 as a suicide prevention hotline. In December, the bill was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee. A companion bill was introduced in the House. This legislation would authorize states to collect fees that would help ensure that local crisis centers could handle the anticipated increase in call volume.

Facts About Suicide

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide rates increased by 33% between 1999 and 2017. More than 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline was established in 2005 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the non-profit Vibrant Emotional Health. The hotline can currently be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). According to the FCC, the hotline received 2.2 million calls and more than 100,000 online chats last year.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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