FCC proposes new 3-digit suicide prevention hotline number

FCC proposes new 3-digit suicide prevention hotline number
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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed this week to implement a three-digit phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

The recommendation to institute 988 as the hotline was made in a report to Congress this week, saying that a shorter and easier to remember number could help expedite to allocation of resources to those in crisis.

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“[D]esignating a 3-digit code dedicated solely for the purpose of a national suicide prevention and mental health hotline would likely make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources,” the report said.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement this week he intends to implement the recommendation.

“There is a suicide epidemic in this country, and it is disproportionately affecting at-risk populations, including our Veterans and LGBTQ youth,” said Pai. “Crisis call centers have been shown to save lives. This report recommends using a three-digit number to make it easier to access the critical suicide prevention and mental health services these call centers provide.”

“I intend to move forward on this recommendation. In the meantime, my heart goes out to anyone facing a crisis.” 

The report said the FCC had considered other three-digit combinations but found that 988 “could be implemented more easily and quickly than repurposing an existing 3-digit” number. 

Under the agency’s rulemaking process, the FCC will allow a period of at least 30 days for public comment.

Rep. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartIt's time for Congress to establish a national mental health crisis number Republicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry Diplomat says Ukraine aid was tied to political investigations MORE (R-Utah), who helped pass a law that called for a study of the hotline that would examine the best three-digit dialing code for the hotline, praised the decision.

“Today’s announcement by the FCC is another important step to provide critical resources to address mental health and suicide in our state and country. This will save lives,” Stewart said in a statement.

The FCC’s proposal comes as U.S. suicide rates reach the highest level since World War II, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline was established in 2005 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Vibrant Emotional Health, a nonprofit dealing with mental health.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country, according to the CDC.