988 National Suicide Prevention

Congress+has+passed+a+bipartisan+legislation+creating+only+a+three-digit+national+suicide+hotline+%28988%29+back+in+Sept.+2020.

Graphic by John T. Rodriguez for El Paisano Media

Congress has passed a bipartisan legislation creating only a three-digit national suicide hotline (988) back in Sept. 2020.

Congress has passed a bipartisan legislation creating only a three-digit national suicide hotline (988) back in Sept. 2020. It is similar to 911, to help with health emergencies. During a medical crisis, the hotline is intended to make it easier to seek help. Citizens would be able to use this three-digit number instead of dialing 911 or a 10-digit hotline number.

By July 2022, States are required to have some version of the 988 system up and running. Charging a surge on monthly bills for phone services, the federal law allows states to raise funds in some effort. The money would then go to support dedicated call centers, pay trained response teams, and stabilization services for people in crisis.

California State Department of Health

The California State Department of Health care services had announced back in September that it would spend $20 million to help launch the 988 system. About 80 cents a month on phone lines would be tacked up for AB-988. It is for both wireless and landline services to provide ongoing funding for the system and associated services. From the telecommunications industry, the bill has opposition which argues the fee should be 10 cents. The fund is only the cost of routing 988 calls to an appropriate crisis center.

Principal Author of AB 988

Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, an assembly member and an Orinda Democrat is the principal author of AB 988.

Bauer-Kahan is hopeful that California would be ready to have a 988 phone system placed by July. “We appropriated 20 million dollars in September to ensure that we have the start-up costs to build up our call centers” Bauer-Kahan had stated according to News Medical Life Sciences. She would go on and say that she expects to have a 30% increase for California’s 13 suicide prevention call centers. With that being said, call centers should have the ability to increase staffing and train people so that we’re prepared. 

 Furthermore mental health advocates had struggled in the waning days of the legislative session back in mid-September this year. 

Other States

A handful of states such as Washington, Colorado, and Nevada to name a few have also passed legislation similar to AB 988. However other states have failed to face strong opposition from the telecommunications industry. A similar bill for Washington State received a lot of pushbacks from Rep. Tina Orwell who authorized the bill. 

“We’re in a pandemic . . . There couldn’t be a more important time to implement this. People need it more than ever.” Tina Orwell had started sharing her thoughts.

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