ICYMI: 9-8-8, New National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number Will Go Live in July

McKinley led efforts to establish policy, secure funding and ensure implementation of this common sense change that could save lives

Washington, D.C. — The final step in the transition to a 3-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number will take place this July. Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E. (W.Va.-01) has advocated for the switch to a simplified, 3-digit number, 9-8-8, for years, following initial discussions of the concept at roundtable meetings with West Virginia veterans.

Since then, Rep. McKinley has advocated for this common-sense change in Washington and has worked with other members of Congress to conduct a feasibility study and with the Federal Communications Commission to ensure this change would be implemented across the country.

“During a roundtable meeting with veterans in Fairmont, we discussed how a veteran who is experiencing a mental health crisis is not likely to look up a specific phone number to call for help. That’s where the concept of simplifying the crisis hotline number, to make it easier to remember, came up,” said Rep. McKinley.

“This change will provide greater access for a person experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, to connect with trained professionals who are able to provide life-saving support,” added Rep. McKinley. “Improving the support system for individuals suffering from behavioral health challenges is one of the most important services we can provide to the people of West Virginia. This simple change will have a significant impact and it could be the difference that saves someone’s life, all from an idea that came from a meeting in Fairmont.”


Associated Press: W. Va. changing suicide prevention lifeline to 3 digits in July

HARLESTON, W. Va. (AP) - People in West Virginia having problems with mental health or suicidal thoughts will soon be able to find help by calling a three-digit number 988. WCHS-TV reports the state Department of Health and Human Resources has received a federal grant to change over to the three-digit system on July 16.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call center based in Charleston is operated by First Choice Services and answers West Virginia calls to the lifeline.

Callers can reach help now at (800) 273-TALK (8255), before the change in July. The lifeline is answered 24 hours a day.


Background:

McKinley has advocated for a three-digit suicide prevention hotline for several years after hearing about the concept in roundtable meetings with veterans. Since then, McKinley pushed the issue, working with other members, the FCC, and sponsored legislation.

  • Lead cosponsor of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019 (H.R. 4194). The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act authorizes states to collect a fee limited to supporting local crisis call centers that are affiliated within the national network or enhancements of such services. This allows states to fund the suicide hotline services similar to that of existing emergency services. The Senate companion bill was signed into law in October 2020.
  • Lead sponsor on the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2345) which passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump. This bill required the FCC to examine the feasibility of designating a three-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system; and analyze the effectiveness of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, including how well it addresses the needs of veterans.

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