Florida Congressmen lead a bipartisan effort to make ‘9-8-8’ the National Suicide Hotline Number

By KEVIN DERBY

John Rutherford, Mike Waltz, Alcee Hastings and Darren Soto

John Rutherford, Mike Waltz, Alcee Hastings and Darren Soto

Four congressmen from the Sunshine State are backing a proposal to have easily remembered “9-8-8” as the code for the national suicide hotline.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, brought out the “National Suicide Hotline Designation Act.” The bill would designate “9-8-8” as a universal telephone number for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system, which is run by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veteran’s Crisis Line.

“This bill will save lives. When your house is on fire, you don’t have time to look up the fire department’s phone number—that’s why we have 9-1-1. In the same way, you should know what number to dial when a friend, a loved one, or you yourself are experiencing a mental health crisis,” Moulton, who ended his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last week, said. “This is a major milestone on the road to where mental healthcare in America is just part of healthcare, period. It’s one part of ending the stigma around mental health and making Americans healthier and stronger.”

“I am truly honored to lead on this bill to get a three-digit, easy-to-remember, dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Suicide hits close to home with an average of two Utahns taking their life every day. This dialing code is an essential step in providing critical resources to those in emotional distress,” Stewart said. 

Last year, Stewart got a bill passed and signed into law to have the federal government find the best three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Earlier this month, after studying the matter, the FCC recommended “9-8-8.”

Four congressmen from Florida–Democrat U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Darren Soto and Republican U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Michael Waltz–are cosponsoring the bill. 

Over the weekend, Waltz explained why he was backing the proposal. 

“When you’re struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, finding help should be as easy as possible. Right now, people can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help but callers must search for and then dial 1-800-273-8255. That is one step too many in a crisis,” Waltz insisted. 

“That’s why I’m joining my colleagues Congressman Chris Stewart and Congressman Seth Moulton to make 9-8-8 the national three-digit dialing code for the Suicide Hotline Network. This bill will save lives and I’m glad to support it,” he added. 

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. So far, there is no companion bill over in the U.S. Senate. 

The  bull has the support of a host of groups including the American Association of Suicidology, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Behavioral Health Link, Behavioral Health Response, Centerstone, Connections Health Solutions, the Jason Foundation, the Kevin and Margaret Hines Foundation, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, the National Association for Rural Mental Health, Now Matters Now, InSight Telepsychiatry, and RI International.

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News Talk Florida Staff