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?”