Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced the Suicide and Crisis Outreach Prevention Enhancement Act, which would expand and enhance the capacity of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and mental health crisis centers. The bill aims to increase awareness of the Lifeline through outreach campaigns, collect and report on demographic data on individuals accessing the lifeline, as well as increase the capacity of the lifeline and crisis centers to provide mental health crisis intervention services.
“Everywhere I go, I hear about the growing mental health crisis that is causing heartbreak and loss in Colorado communities and across the country,” said Bennet. “As we work to invest in smart resources to end this crisis and prevent further loss of life, it’s crucial that we also address the racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to mental and behavioral health care. Our bipartisan legislation will strengthen the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to support all individuals in crisis and help reduce disparities in access to the program.”
“With many people struggling with mental health issues throughout the pandemic, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is critical for getting them the help they need,” said Cornyn. “This legislation would allocate much-needed resources to the Lifeline program, giving Texans and veterans in crisis even more access to this valuable resource.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on the well-being of too many Americans. In fact, a recent study found that 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety and depression as a consequence of the health crisis,” said Warner. “We’ve got to do more to bolster programs like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to make sure folks get help when they need it.”
“It’s critical that folks in Iowa and across the country have access to mental health services. This bipartisan effort will help increase the surge capacity of our nation’s suicide prevention lifeline and mental health crisis centers to ensure those in need can be connected with care as quickly as possible,” said Ernst.
The bill text is available HERE.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) is a national network of state and local crisis centers linked through a 24/7 toll-free number (1-800-273-TALK or 8255) that connects callers throughout the U.S. to immediate crisis care. Trained counselors assess callers for suicidal risk, provide emotional support and crisis counseling, and offer referrals to behavioral health and emergency services when necessary.
Since 2005, more than 12 million calls have been answered by the NSPL and its network of crisis centers, with a record 2.2+ million calls in 2018 alone. Additionally, the Veterans Crisis Line has served 3.5 million callers since its inception in 2007, including 600,000 Veterans and active service members in 2018.
The NSPL network consists of more than 170 independently operated local and state-funded crisis call centers in 48 states. Callers dial the Lifeline number and are routed to their nearest crisis center based on area code. Ideally, callers are connected with a local counselor in their own state. However, if the local center is unable to answer, the Lifeline reroutes calls to backup centers in their network, both in and out-of-state.
The NSPL, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is accessible in over 150 languages and includes chat and TTY services for the deaf and hard of hearing.
In December 2019, Bennet co-sponsored the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which designates 9-8-8 for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline and ensures states have the flexibility to strengthen local crisis call centers. In October 2020, the bill was signed into law. The 9-8-8 hotline will be implemented in July 2022.