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Sen. Baldwin, lawmakers want to make ‘988’ national suicide hotline

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MADISON, Wis. – A Wisconsin lawmaker is helping to lead an effort in the nation’s capital to change the national suicide hotline to 988.

The current hotline is ten digits long – 800-273-TALK (8255) – and advocates like Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D – Wisconsin) believe that can be a barrier for people with suicidal thoughts who may be in a crisis. A simple, easy to remember three-digit number could save countless lives. Baldwin’s bill would direct the FCC to make 988 the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number.

“This bill, when signed into law, will save lives,” Sen. Baldwin told CBS 58 in a phone interview. “Just like efforts in the past to create 911 or 411, […] 988 will be similar for folks experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis or their loved ones who want to reach out and connect them with services.”

The bill would also allow for callers who are veterans to dial ‘1’ to be transferred to the Veterans Crisis Hotline.

The FCC voted Thursday to move forward with the next step in its process to achieve the same goal. It will not go ahead with a months-long public comment period.

But Baldwin says that entire process is slow and is pushing for her legislation to move forward.

“It could be well in excess of a year or more for this [FCC process] to come about – if we make this a part of law, we will be able to work very quickly as soon as this bill is passed both houses and signed into law,” Baldwin said.

Death by suicide is the tenth leading cause in the United States and was responsible for more than 47,000 deaths in 2017, according to the CDC.

RESOURCES

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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