Thanks to efforts by two of Utah’s members of Congress, the nation soon may have a three-digit suicide and mental health crisis hotline similar to dialing 911 for other emergencies.
Without comment, President Donald Trump signed into law on Tuesday legislation sponsored by Rep. Chris Stewart and Sen. Orrin Hatch, both Republicans, to require the Federal Communications Commission to study the feasibility of such a hotline.
It is also ordered to recommend which three-digit number would be best for the hotline, examine the effectiveness of the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line, and recommend ways to improve the current system.
Stewart and Hatch hailed the new law and said it is long overdue.
“We now have the opportunity to make the National Suicide Prevention Hotline more accessible and easier to remember,” Stewart said. “By creating a hotline dialing code that is short and easy to remember, we are taking an important step towards potentially averting tragedy. This new law truly has the ability to save lives."
Hatch added, “With this topic, my heart is both heavy and hopeful — heavy because suicide has already taken so many lives; hopeful because this legislation can turn the tide in the campaign against this epidemic.”
During House debate in July, Stewart said, “Every nine minutes someone commits suicide in the U.S., and for every suicide-related death, there are 25 attempts.”
Utah ranks fifth in the nation for suicide deaths per capita.
A version of the bill sponsored by Stewart passed the House on a 379-1 vote, and the Senate passed an identical bill by Hatch. It later adopted the House bill and sent it to Trump.
The single nay vote in the House came from Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who said he applauded the goal but felt it was beyond the purview of the federal government. “It’s another good idea without a constitutional basis,” he tweeted at the time.