Letter to the Hon. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, the Hon. Charles Schumer, Senate Minority Leader, the Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, and the Hon. Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader - McSally Calls for Establishing 9-8-8 Suicide Hotline in Next COVID-19 Relief Package


Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:

We write to request the inclusion of S. 2661/ H.R. 4194, the National Suicide Hotline
Designation Act, in the next COVID-19 relief package. The creation of this three-digit dialing
code is essential in order to address the growing suicide crisis across the United States. As our
country is facing an unprecedented challenge in responding to COVID-19, this three-digit hotline
would play a critical role in saving the lives of many vulnerable Americans who are facing
mental health emergencies during this period of isolation and uncertainty. Suicide does not
discriminate between rural and urban areas or by income, and it causes heartbreak and loss in
communities in every single one of our states. We must ensure that we are doing everything we
can to prevent these devastating outcomes from occurring, especially in these trying times as
grief and uncertainty encompass our nation.

In 2018, Congress acted in a bipartisan fashion to pass the National Suicide Hotline
Improvement Act, directing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to evaluate using a
three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. In August 2019, the FCC
released its report, which found that a national three-digit line would improve suicide prevention,
and it recommended a simpler number that Americans could dial in times of crisis: 9-8-8 and has
moved forward with an official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Right now, the National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline is a ten-digit long number for anyone contemplating suicide, and this lack of
accessibility serves as a barrier to Americans seeking immediate help in a mental health crisis.

When someone is suffering from a heart attack or medical emergency, everyone knows to call 9-
1-1, but for mental health emergencies, an easy-to-remember number does not exist. Because of
this, we took bipartisan, bicameral steps to introduce or support S. 2661/ H.R. 4194 to designate
9-8-8 as the universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis
hotline and to ensure states are able to support call centers as they deal with new levels of call
volume. S. 2661 passed the Senate Commerce Committee on December 11, 2019 with
unanimous support and is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 33 senators, and H.R. 4194
passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Communications and
Technology on March 10, 2020 with unanimous support and is cosponsored by a bipartisan
group of 135 members of Congress.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act is not just smart policy that will save lives, but it
is also a statement that our government recognizes our country's mental health crisis and is
working across party lines to address it. On April 4, 2020, reports show that one call center in the
network had only 22 crisis calls related to COVID-19 in February and that number grew by over
8,000% to 1,800 in March. Increasing the accessibility of life-saving services for people facing
mental health crises will be a key step in fighting for a tomorrow in which Americans in crisis
know they are not alone.

As our country is working together to address this virus, it is crucial that mental health support is
at the forefront of all of our minds. Because of this, we urge you to include S. 2661/ H.R. 4194,
the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, in the next COVID-19 relief package to ensure the
expansion of accessibility to this life-saving hotline. Thank you for your continued support and
leadership on this issue.