The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will consider the establishment of a single, three-digit emergency code that could be used to contact a nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.
That’s the key takeaway in an extensive report submitted in mid-August to Congress by the Office of Economics and Analytics in the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau. The “Report on the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018” recommends that the Commission consider designating 988 as a nationally available number that would connect callers with mental health professionals trained in dealing with suicide risks.
According to the FCC, a single three-digit number would make it easier to access critical suicide prevention resources. Access to such resources are now available by dialing the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 (TALK), a program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which connects callers to one of 163 crisis centers located across the U.S. The FCC says that lifeline counselors answered more than 2.2 million calls and more than 100,000 online chats through the hotline in 2018.
Ajit Pai, chair of the FCC, says that he intends to implement the report’s recommendation, and initiate a rulemaking proceeding that would designate 988 for that purpose.