Today the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (“AFSP”), responded to the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Report on the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act to the U.S. Congress with this statement by John Madigan, AFSP Senior Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer:
“We applaud the FCC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Veterans Affairs (VA) for their work to analyze the effectiveness and the feasibility of a 3-digit hotline number. We agree with the initial conclusion of the FCC’s Report to Congress: that a universal, easy-to-remember, 3-digit phone number will make it easier to connect people in crisis with life-saving resources. AFSP is calling on the relevant congressional oversight committees of the Congress to continue their due diligence on this critical issue and immediately schedule a hearing to address the FCC’s recommendation to designate “988” as a new 3-digit number as there are significant questions and concerns which should be addressed, namely: Network Limitations – The North American Numbering Council’s Report to the FCC recognized that “988 likely cannot be deployed ubiquitously across all networks” in the United States and the FCC conceded that network upgrades and technology replacements will be necessary to “ultimately [make] the use of 988 as a designated suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline ubiquitous” nationally.
The AFSP noted that, “It’s essential that a mental health and suicide prevention crisis number be nationally available for all individuals in crisis,” and they asked, “How will these gaps in national coverage be addressed so access is available regardless of geographic location?”
As AFSP detailed in their blog on the 3-digit number, SAMHSA has said that an N11 number, such as 911, would be more effective than any other number. The AFSP also reported that the FCC opined on this topic that, “The special nature of an N11 code makes the [code] amenable to a public education campaign” and “the use of an N11 code… follows the existing conventions for abbreviated dialing already familiar to customers. The N11 architecture is an established abbreviated dialing plan that is recognized by switch manufacturers and the public at large.”
Other points and questions the AFSP is raising include:
- How will Congress elevate the “988” dialing code to the level of recognizably as the N11 format?
- This expense represents 40 percent of the FCC’s two-year cost analysis. Where does the responsibility fall for covering the cost of these upgrades?
- Let’s understand the present-day challenges with designating a non-N11 number, like 988, for a national suicide prevention and mental health hotline. Do these previous learnings need to be considered?
To learn more about the AFSP and the 3-digit number for Suicide Prevention, please visit HERE
If you deal with health issues related to suicide, please know that we are here for you, especially if insurance denies you access to benefits for treatment. Please contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation at 877 783 8686 or use our online contact form. Your brain and your emotional well-being are equally as important as, and part of, your physical health. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help today – here are a few resources: