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Legislation would create 3-digit suicide hotline, increase funding for veteran suicide prevention

(NBC15)
Published: Dec. 11, 2019 at 3:07 PM CST
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A new act in the U.S. Senate would designate dialing ‘9-8-8’ as the new hotline for suicide prevention and mental health crises.

The U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee passed the

National Suicide Hotline Designation Act

on Wednesday, sending the legislation to the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and ultimately President Trump's desk to be signed into law.

The current hotline contains 10 digits, which the creators of the act say is too long for Americans in crisis seeking help.

The act would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce the 988 hotline.

The act also allows veterans to press 1 after dialing 988 to be routed to the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support.

The legislation, which has bipartisan support, also recognizes that LGBTQ youth are at risk of suicide. The act will require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to report to Congress on its plans to help prevent suicide in the LGBTQ+ community.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and other lawmakers introduced the act.

We need to do everything we can to prevent suicide and that means improving the tools we have to help people who are suffering from depression or other mental health issues,” according to Baldwin in a release.

MORE FUNDING IN VETERAN SUICIDE PREVENTION

U.S. Senator Baldwin and other lawmakers also introduced a new bill that would increase funding in suicide prevention for veterans.

The

County Veteran Service Officers

(CVSO) Act would authorize $50 million annually for five years to fund Veterans Affairs programs that help with suicide prevention.

Specifically the money would be used to hire more County Veteran Service Officers, who are individuals who work in Veterans Affairs programs.

According to a release Wednesday, CVSOs are often the first point of contact for veterans and their families. One of the most important issues they work together to prevent is suicide.

The money would be sent to states as grants to support CVSOs in Veterans Affairs.

Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Steve Daines (D-MT) also supported the bill.

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