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National Suicide Hotline Bill Moves Forward

Congressman Greg Gianforte’s bipartisan legislation to create a universal telephone number as the National Suicide Hotline took a step forward Tuesday, March 10, unanimously passing the Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

The legislation designates “9-8-8” as the universal telephone number for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system, which is operated through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veteran’s Crisis Line.

“Unfortunately, mental health care is not available to many Montanans. In fact, more than 600,000 Montanans live in an area where there is a shortage of mental health professionals,” Gianforte said. “Ideally, everyone would have access to preventative mental health care. Folks who live in rural and frontier communities face overwhelming obstacles to receive mental health care. That’s why 9-8-8 is so important.”

Gianforte said, “We need to help Americans facing this crisis. Our nation faces an epidemic of suicide, and Montanans tragically are all too familiar with it.”

Montana has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country, with suicide as the leading cause of death for Montanans ages 15 to 24.

In August, Gianforte introduced the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, H.R. 4194, with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Congressmen Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act follows legislation calling for a study to determine the best three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The FCC released its report in August 2019 recommending “9-8-8” as the best three-digit dialing code for the lifeline. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act assigns the FCC’s recommended number as the easy three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

In addition, the measure sets a deadline of one year for the FCC to complete the nationwide upgrade of the legacy switches to support 9-8-8.

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