Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has announced that the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act has passed in the House of Representatives by voice vote.
Johnson is a lead Democratic cosponsor of the House version of the legislation with Representatives Chris Stewart (UT-02), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Greg Gianforte (MT-AL).
The act directs the Federal Communications Commission to designate 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system, including the Veterans Crisis Line to specifically support veterans seeking mental health support.
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The bill also authorizes states to collect a fee dedicated to supporting local crisis call centers that are affiliated within the national network in order enhance those services.
"As a former chief psychiatric nurse, I have spent my legislative career advocating for more accessible mental health resources in our communities, especially with the significant needs in these difficult times," Congresswoman Johnson said. "We must not allow the tragedies of COVID-19 to be compounded by preventable losses of life due to mental health distress, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that 40% of American adults have struggled with mental health or substance abuse during this pandemic."
This bill is follows Johnson's National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act that was signed into law in August 2018, directing the FCC and SAMHSA to study the feasibility of a 3-digit dialing code for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.
The FCC released their report in August 2019, finding that designating a 3-digit code dedicated for the purpose of suicide prevention and mental health support would likely make it easier for Americans to access lifesaving resources.
In the report, the FCC recommended 9-8-8 as the best 3-digit code to be used for this purpose, allowing for the creation of Johnson's National Suicide Hotline Designation Act.
"I am pleased that the House is considering the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act on the floor today, in honor of September as Suicide Prevention Month," Johnson said. "We must move quickly to designate 9-8-8 for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system and to provide the state funding guidance, federal reporting, and specialized service training to implement this new dialing code. I would like to thank my colleagues Representatives Chris Stewart, Seth Moulton, and Greg Gianforte for their partnership on this critical effort."