11.08.19

Support Grows for Gardner’s Three-Digit Suicide Hotline Bill

Veterans Organizations and Mental Health Groups Urge Passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act

Washington, D.C. – Support is growing for U.S. Senator Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) bipartisan legislation to designate a three-digit phone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. 

Gardner’s National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S. 2661, designates 9-8-8 for 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, which is a barrier to Americans in crisis seeking support. 

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

 

What veterans service organizations and mental health groups are saying:

In a recent op-ed in The Hillleaders from Centerstone, Mental Health America, RI International, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Alliance for Mental Illness, The Trevor Project, American Association of Suicidology, and Behavioral Health Link wrote: “For too long, our system for mental health crisis services has been underfunded and undervalued. The current responsibility for 9-1-1 to handle mental health and suicide crises creates confusion, unnecessary delays and insufficient responses during people’s most difficult moments. Establishing 9-8-8 as a separate, universal three-digit telephone number will reach those in need while simultaneously reducing the burden on 9-1-1 for mental health emergencies. Connecting a person in crisis with mental health care to address their immediate needs will also increase access to a continuum of care that can often feel out of reach for people with mental illness. A direct line to mental health professionals through a 3-digit number will provide unprecedented access to care and undoubtedly save lives.”

“Ensuring Veterans and at-risk groups have a simple, reliable way to access mental health services is vital to combatting our nation’s suicide crisis,”said Melissa Bryant, National Legislative Director of The American Legion. “Interventions work. We are proud to support this legislation as a critical step toward tackling this public health crisis.”

“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) applauds the Senators’ efforts to establish a national three-digit suicide prevention hotline number. Having an easy to remember number will ensure that individuals across the country who are in emotional distress will have ready access to crisis services that can save lives,” said American Foundation for Suicide Prevention CEO Bob Gebbia.

“AMVETS realizes the importance of establishing barrier-free communication channels for veterans who need immediate help, which is why we created a helpline for veterans who need to talk to someone immediately. When a veteran in crisis calls us, we work closely with the Veterans Crisis Line and refer those veterans regularly. Every day we encourage veterans to reach out for help when they need it, whether that means calling their fellow servicemembers or calling a helpline. Changing the number of the Veteran Crisis Line to 9-8-8 gives veterans or loved ones an easy number to remember in the midst of a crisis. We hope this will encourage more people to take advantage of this resource and make the call when they are in need of help,” said Sherman Gillums, Chief Advocacy Officer for American Veterans (AMVETS).

“If you are in a car accident, you don’t have to remember a 7-digit number to get immediate help - a mental health emergency should be no different,” said National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Acting CEO Angela Kimball. “That’s why NAMI supports the introduction of both the House and Senate versions of a bill that would establish a 3-digit, easy to remember universal number for those seeking help during a mental health crisis and for suicide prevention. The creation of a nationwide ‘988’ number could mean the difference between life and death by diverting people from the criminal justice system and instead get them the right care when they need it most.”

“I know from my days in the military that in a crisis, simple is better. This is why Wounded Warrior Project supports S. 2661 – the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019,” said Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington. “This important legislation, sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner and co-sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, would simplify access to the National Suicide Hotline by providing a three-digit phone number to dial to connect those experiencing suicidal ideations with life-saving resources. As we work to remove barriers to mental health care and employ public health approaches to prevent tragedy before it strikes, an easy-to-remember hotline for connecting veterans in distress to experts who can help is overdue. On the behalf of Wounded Warrior Project and the veterans we serve, we thank Sens. Gardner and Baldwin for their leadership on this important issue.”

“TAPS supports the implementation of a 3 digit number for the National Crisis Line. We want to make it as simple as possible for those at risk to reach out and connect with care,” said Kim Ruocco MSW, Vice President of Suicide Prevention and Postvention at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

This legislation is endorsed by: American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, American Association of Suicidology, American Counseling Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Legion, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, AMVETS, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Association For Ambulatory Behavioral Health, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Behavioral Health Association of Providers, Behavioral Health Link, Centerstone, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies (CIPS), Depression Association of America, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Eating Disorders Coalition, Education Development Center, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, Illinois Association of Behavioral Health, Kennedy Forum, Kevin & Margaret Hines Foundation, Mental Health America, Mental Health Colorado, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association for Rural Mental Health, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Board for Certified Counselors, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, NowMattersNow.org, Open Minds, Postpartum Support International, Residential Eating Disorders Consortium, RI International, SMART Recovery, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, Tourette Association of America, The Trevor Project, United Suicide Survivors International, Wounded Warrior Project, 2020 Mom.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.