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Buck advocates for suicide prevention texting option

The proposal was made with the hope that more young people experiencing emotional distress would reach out for assistance and support.
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NEWS RELEASE
REPRESENTATIVE KEN BUCK
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Washington, D.C. – Reps. Buck (CO-04) and Jason Crow (D-CO-06) sent a joint letter to the Acting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel today, urging the agency to allow a texting option for the 988 suicide prevention hotline.

The proposal was made with the hope that by supporting a text message option, more young people experiencing emotional distress would reach out for assistance and support.

"As we observe National Suicide Prevention Week, we appreciate the Commission’s work implementing the new 988 suicide hotline number. This three-digit crisis line number—which will be operational starting next year—will help millions of Americans access mental health and counseling services from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in their time of greatest need," Buck and Crow wrote.

"As the Commission considers next steps, we urge you to adopt a text-to-988 option, which will expand the reach of the hotline and make these critical resources more accessible to individuals in crisis," both Congressmen continued.

A law had already been unanimously passed during the last Congress to enact a 988 hotline option, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering the added stresses and mental strains of lockdowns over a potentially harmful virus, the need to expand access to counseling and outreach has become even greater.

"The COVID-19 pandemic compounded these trends and took a particularly devastating toll on the mental health of young people," the letter reads. "During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, suicidal thinking and attempts among youth were up 25% over a similar period in 2019."

In addition to Buck and Crow, all U.S. House members from Colorado signed the letter in support of the effort.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:


September 9, 2021

Ms. Jessica Rosenworcel
Acting Chairwoman
Federal Communications Commission
45 L Street NE
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel:

As we observe National Suicide Prevention Week, we appreciate the Commission’s work implementing the new 988 suicide hotline number. This three-digit crisis line number—which will be operational starting next year—will help millions of Americans access mental health and counseling services from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in their time of greatest need. As the Commission considers next steps, we urge you to adopt a text-to-988 option, which will expand the reach of the hotline and make these critical resources more accessible to individuals in crisis.

Last year, Congress unanimously passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act to create a short, easy-to-remember three-digit phone number to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Even before the pandemic, mental illness rates and suicidal ideation among adults were on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic compounded these trends and took a particularly devastating toll on the mental health of young people. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, suicidal thinking and attempts among youth were up 25% over a similar period in 2019.

As 988 implementation continues, we urge the Commission to require providers to support text messages to 988. As the commission recognized in its April Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, young people and other at-risk populations are often most comfortable communicating via text. By allowing a text-to-988 option in addition to voice call, the Commission can lower the bar to entry and improve access to crisis counseling and mental health services. This will save lives.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this request. 

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