Senate Approves Bill To Create 3-Digit National Suicide Hotline Number

Senate Approves Bill To Create 3-Digit National Suicide Hotline Number
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act calls for a shorter, three-digit number: 988.

The Senate unanimously approved The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act on Wednesday, which calls for a nationwide three-digit number.

Under the bill, callers who reach out in a time of need would only have to dial 988 to be connected to a nearby crisis center. The current number, 1-800-273-TALK, would still work, too.

The bill would also help fund local crisis centers — which could see increased call volume once the new number rolls out — by letting states collect fees from the calls. What's more, it would require government health agencies to submit reports to Congress about how to better support people at higher risk for suicide, including but not limited to LGBTQ youth, minorities and people in rural areas. 

The FCC started studying the simpler, easy-to-remember number after 2018's National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act was implemented. After those studies and a public comment period, the FCC approved the number in December. Chairman Ajit Pai said the shorter number "would make it easier for those in crisis to connect to the support they need."

Last year, the commission estimated it would cost about $570 million the first year and another $175 million during the second year to go toward the call centers and a public awareness campaign.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act will now head to the House of Representatives. 

If you need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.