Senate Committee Approves Gardner’s 9-8-8 Suicide Hotline Bill

December 11, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Today the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed U.S. Senator Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) bipartisan bill to designate 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.

Gardner’s National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S. 2661, designates 9-8-8 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which would include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line are 10-digits long, which is a barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support. The language that cleared the Senate Commerce Committee included a report to improve support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning  (LGBTQ) youth and other high risk populations.  

NOTE: Click here or the picture above to view Senator Gardner’s remarks.

“Suicide has tragically impacted too many families in Colorado,” said Senator Gardner. “This easy-to-remember number would make it easier for Americans dealing with a mental health crisis to receive life-saving support. 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, because too many people are suffering and don’t know where to turn to for help.”

"Today, the Senate Commerce Committee took an important step to advance suicide prevention resources for all Americans with the markup of S. 2661. The Trevor Project is especially encouraged by the inclusion of language requiring the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to create a distinct plan for LGBTQ youth — who are disproportionately impacted by the suicide crisis in the U.S. — to access specialized service through the Lifeline. We thank Senators Gardner and Baldwin for listening to the voices of LGBTQ Americans, and look forward to working with SAMHSA to strengthen the Lifeline for the future." said Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project.

  

Gardner introduced this bipartisan legislation with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jack Reed (D-RI). 

 

Background:

  • In 2018, Gardner voted for the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, which directed the Federal Communications Commission to evaluate using a three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • This August, the FCC released their report, which found that a national three-digit line would improve suicide prevention and recommended a simple number that Americans could dial in times of crisis: 9-8-8.
  • In October, Senators Gardner, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced S. 2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which designates 9-8-8 for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline and ensures states have the flexibility to strengthen local crisis call centers. The bill ensures states are able to collect fees for the line, similar to the way they do for the 911 emergency line, and requires reports to Congress to help ensure effectiveness and operability of the line.
  • Nearly 50 mental health organizations and veterans support organizations announced their support and urged Congress to pass the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act.
  • At a press conference in November with Senator Gardner, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced the FCC will consider establishing 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention hotline at their meeting on December 12, 2019.