Gardner bill designating 9-8-8 as suicide prevention hotline receives FCC endorsement

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on June 24 unanimously endorsed a bicameral, bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) to establish 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.

“For the months of March and April 2020, calls to our state mental health crisis line spiked 48 percent compared to last year,” Sen. Gardner said during a Wednesday hearing held by the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Commission. “In a crisis there should be no confusion about where to call, which is why 9-8-8 is so important and will save lives.”

All five FCC commissioners testified during the hearing and offered support for the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, S. 2661, which Sen. Gardner introduced in October 2019 with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). U.S. Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) in August 2019 introduced the same-named H.R. 4194 in their chamber.

The Senate in May approved an amended S. 2661, which the U.S. House of Representatives still must consider.

“Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country,” said Sen. Gardner. “We lose a Coloradan approximately once every seven hours to suicide. With COVID-19 upending life as we know it, suicide prevention is more important than ever.”

If enacted, the bill would designate 9-8-8 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which would include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support, and require a report to improve support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and other high-risk populations.

During the hearing, Sen. Gardner asked each FCC commissioner: “Do you agree with all 100 senators that this is critical legislation and that it complements the work you are doing at the commission and should be swiftly passed by the House of Representatives to help save lives?” Each commissioner answered yes.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also announced earlier this week that the FCC will vote on moving forward with the 9-8-8 suicide hotline at the commission’s July 16 meeting.


Ripon Advance News Service

Ripon Advance