Florida Delegation Backs Making 988 a National Suicide Hotline

A proposal to make 988 the national suicide hotline continues to pick up momentum on Capitol Hill as a congressman from the Sunshine State threw his support behind it last week.

Back in August, U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, introduced the “National Suicide Hotline Designation Act” which makes 988 a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line will run the hotline if the bill passes.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., threw his support behind the proposal which has almost 140 cosponsors.

“During this pandemic, and always, it is critical that we prioritize the mental health of Americans, especially veterans, who may be experiencing COVID-19 related distress,” Steube said last week. “An unfathomable 6,000 United States veterans commit suicide each year. This alarming statistic is why I support creating a national suicide hotline number that is easily accessible to all so they may get the help that they need when they need it most.”

“Establishing a national suicide hotline number is especially urgent after disturbing reports that mental health problems such as suicide in the United States are rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the Veterans Crisis Line serves over 650,000 calls per year. This legislation has received bipartisan support and could potentially save thousands of lives,” Steube’s office noted.

Other members of the Florida delegation in the House backing the bill include U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Al Lawson, D-Fla.,  Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., John Rutherford, R-Fla., Darren Soto, D-Fla., and Michael Waltz, R-Fla.

The bill is before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Over in the U.S. Senate, earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardiner, R-Col., guided the companion measure through the chamber on a voice vote. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., was a cosponsor of the bill.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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