HR 2345 : National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018

Position: Support Status: Senate

Became Public Law No: 115-233 on August 14, 2018.

This law requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to coordinate with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and to consult with the Department of Veterans Affairs to examine: (1) the feasibility of designating a three-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system; and (2) the effectiveness of the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), including how well it addresses the needs of veterans.

The FCC must submit to Congress a recommended dialing code, a cost-benefit analysis comparing the three-digit code to the current lifeline number, and cost estimates for service providers, states, and localities.

On July 23, 2018, Section 4 was added to the bill. The section states, "No additional funds are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act. This Act shall be carried out using amounts otherwise authorized."

Update


August 14, 2018: Became Public Law No: 115-233. August 1, 2018: Passed/agreed to in Senate: Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent. July 24, 2018: Passed by the House by a vote of 379 - 1. The bill now moves to the Senate. 115 cosponsors (62 R, 53 D) including Oregon Congressman Greg Walden. Rep. Stewart, Chris [R-UT-2] (Introduced 05/03/2017)

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden cosponsored this bill. On July 23, 2018, Section 4 was added to the bill. The section states, “No additional funds are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act. This Act shall be carried out using amounts otherwise authorized.”

The rate of suicide, including suicide by firearm, is much higher than the national rate. We applaud Congressman Walden for taking a step to help reduce this highly preventable method of death.

The firearm-death rate in Oregon varies widely by county. When examining  Oregon statistics by county, urban-rural differences appear.  Six rural Oregon counties, Baker, Coos, Union, Wallowa, Grant, and Curry, have the highest gun death rate in the state, averaging 17.4 per 100,000 people. Three Portland metro counties, Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas, average 8.43 gun deaths per 100,000.

When examined further, one sees that the gun suicide rate for the six rural counties is 14.4 per 100,000 – twice the gun suicide rate of 6.5 for the three urban counties. The national rate for firearm suicide is 6.7 per 100,000.

Oregon clearly needs more than a simpler telephone code to tackle the horrific issue of firearm-suicide in rural Oregon but we thank Congressman Walden for this step forward.