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U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, Representing the 30th District of Texas

House Passes Congresswoman Johnson’s National Suicide Hotline Designation Act

Sep 21, 2020
Press Release
Establishing a 9-8-8 Suicide Hotline Dialing Code

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson announces the passage of S.2661, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, in the House of Representatives by voice vote. Congresswoman Johnson was a lead Democratic cosponsor of the House version of this legislation, H.R.4194, with Representatives Chris Stewart (UT-02), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Greg Gianforte (MT-AL). 

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to designate 9-8-8 as the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system. The system will include the Veterans Crisis Line to specifically support veterans seeking mental health support. Additionally, the bill authorizes states to collect a fee dedicated solely to supporting local crisis call centers that are affiliated within the national network for enhancements of such services.

“As a former chief psychiatric nurse, I have spent my legislative career advocating for more accessible mental health resources in our communities, especially with the significant needs in these difficult times. We must not allow the tragedies of COVID-19 to be compounded by preventable losses of life due to mental health distress, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that 40% of American adults have struggled with mental health or substance abuse during this pandemic,” said Congresswoman Johnson. “I am pleased that the House is considering the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act on the floor today, in honor of September as Suicide Prevention Month. We must move quickly to designate 9-8-8 for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system and to provide the state funding guidance, federal reporting, and specialized service training to implement this new dialing code. I would like to thank my colleagues Representatives Chris Stewart, Seth Moulton, and Greg Gianforte for their partnership on this critical effort.”

This bill is a subsequent effort following Congresswoman Johnson’s National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act that was signed into law in August 2018, during the previous 115th Congress. That law directed the FCC and SAMHSA to study the feasibility of a 3-digit dialing code for the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. The FCC publicly released their report in August 2019, finding that designating 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 lifesaving resources. It was in that report that the FCC recommended 9-8-8 as the best 3-digit code to be used for this purpose, thus setting the framework for Congresswoman Johnson’s National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. 

Supporting organizations of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act include: American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, American Association of Suicidology, American Counseling Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Legion, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Telemedicine Association, AMVETS, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Association For Ambulatory Behavioral Health, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, Behavioral Health Association of Providers, Behavioral Health Link, Centerstone, College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, Colorado Access, Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies (CIPS), Depression Association of America, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Eating Disorders Coalition, Education Development Center, Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, Illinois Association of Behavioral Health, Kennedy Forum, Kevin & Margaret Hines Foundation, Mental Health America, Mental Health Colorado, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Association for Rural Mental Health, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Board for Certified Counselors, National Council for Behavioral Health, National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, NowMattersNow, Open Minds, Postpartum Support International, Residential Eating Disorders Consortium, RI International, SMART Recovery, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, Tourette Association of America, The Trevor Project, United Suicide Survivors International, Vibrant Emotional Health, Wounded Warrior Project, and 2020 Mom.