Original article posted October 22, 2020 Ohio Children Alliance

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law on Saturday, October 17. This legislation will create a new 9-8-8 dialing code for suicide prevention, helping Americans who are seeking services for mental health emergencies.

The FCC has already embarked on its own steps to establish 988 as the national suicide hotline number by July 16, 2022. The recently passed legislation would build on those, and permit states to impose fees and charges, like those incorporated with the use of 911, to help fund personnel and other expenses that arise in making it possible. The newly assigned hotline will also include the Veterans Crisis Line for veteran-specific mental health support.

Currently, people must dial a 10-digit number to reach the suicide hotline, but the hope is that 988 will present less of a barrier to Americans enduring crisis and seeking support.

The success of 9-8-8 comes at a critical time for behavioral health services, as COVID-19 has contributed to increased isolation and unemployment, among other difficulties. Implementation of 9-8-8 now moves to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which recently set a deadline of July 2022 for the full, national implementation of the hotline.