After recent high-profile suicides, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch is pushing for the House to expedite work on a bipartisan bill to improve the national suicide prevention hotline.
“Our bill requires the FCC to recommend an easy-to-remember, three-digit number for the national suicide prevention hotline. I believe that by making the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline system more user-friendly and accessible, we can save thousands of lives by helping people find the help they need when they need it most,” the Utah Republican said in a floor speech. “The Senate passed our bill with overwhelming bipartisan support in November. Now it’s time for the House to do its part.”
Suicide has been in headlines in the last week because of the deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef, author and television host Anthony Bourdain.
The Hatch legislation would call for the Federal Communications Commission to explore using an available three-digit “N-1-1” number for access to the hotline, much like people can call 9-1-1 to report fires, crimes and medical emergencies, and people can call 3-1-1 for access to non-emergency city services.
The House companion, sponsored by Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, advanced through an Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday.
“While I was pleased to learn that our legislation is slowly making its way through the House committee process, I am calling today for more urgent action,” Hatch said.
In a floor speech that particularly focused on the suicide epidemic facing the LGBT community in his home state of Utah, Hatch said there was much work to be done beyond legislating.
“The gradual dissolution of civil society has led to unprecedented levels of loneliness, depression, and despair. In this sense, suicide is merely a symptom of a much larger problem. But even though there’s hopelessness, there is still reason to hope,” said Hatch. “I firmly believe that by restoring civility to its proper place in our society, we can fight the despair that has seized hold of so many.”
Hatch’s Democratic partner on the Senate-passed bill is Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, who also praised the House subcommittee’s action on Wednesday.
“The rising suicide rate in Indiana is a disturbing trend that warrants a significant and sustained response, as each death devastates loved-ones, friends, and the community,” Donnelly said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work the Senate did to unanimously pass my bipartisan legislation with Senator Hatch that would examine how we can improve the suicide prevention hotline, and I’m pleased that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working on this as well. I hope that the House quickly passes this bill.”