What’s Up with Congress?
This week the House of Representative passed H.R. 2345, the Suicide Prevention Hotline Improvement Act, which establishes that the Federal Communications Commission may study the steps it would take to create a 3-digit suicide prevention hotline and evaluate the effectiveness of the current hotline for suicide prevention (1-800-273-TALK) including how well it helps veterans. The Senate passed its own identical bill in November 2017, which means the bill heads now to the president for signature to become law. In the Senate, consideration of an opioid response package is still under consideration.
The Senate passed a companion bill in November 2017, sponsored by Utah Republican Orrin G. Hatch.
“There are literally lives on the line here and leaving them on hold is not an option,” said Hatch in June, calling on the House to move quickly on their version of the bill.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In Stewart and Hatch’s home state of Utah, young people are particularly vulnerable, and suicide is the leading cause of death among teens.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The program was last authorized at $7.2 million a year through fiscal year 2021.
MHA continues its advocacy efforts pushing Congress to pass opioid response legislation and funding. MHA has also ramped up efforts in response to the Administration’s continued degradation of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. As American individuals and families face access and affordability challenges in the health care market, MHA strongly believes the Administration should protect comprehensive health plans that cover mental health and substance use benefits.