State budget includes federal funding to create a 988 suicide prevention hotline
STATE HOUSE — A proposal by Rep. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket) and Sen. Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) that would establish a 988 suicide prevention hotline has been included in the adopted state budget.
The spending plan, which was signed into law today by Gov. Daniel McKee, includes $1.9 million from federal State Fiscal Recovery funds for the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to create a 988 hotline to maintain compliance with the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020.
“We’ve seen a huge jump in the mental health needs of Rhode Islanders because of the way the COVID pandemic has isolated them and affected the way they interact and behave,” said Representative Shallcross Smith. “Even before the pandemic, we began seeing a spike in suicide attempts and mental health-related hospitalizations.”
According to Rhode Island Kids Count, in 2019, about 15 percent of high school students reported attempting suicide at least once during the previous 12 months. In 2020, 334 teens were hospitalized after a suicide attempt.
“A study to assess mental health found an increase in thinking about suicide,” said Senator Cano. “Mental health conditions are disproportionately affecting certain populations, including young adults, communities of color and unpaid caregivers. 988 is an easy number to remember for those who may be experiencing this crisis in their lives.”
Melissa Ames, Rhode Island Board Chair of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, spoke in favor of the hotline.
“Rhode Island must invest in our local crisis call centers and the continuum of community crisis services that can support callers needing an in-person response,” Ames said. “A 988-crisis services system that is effectively resourced and promoted will reduce healthcare spending with early intervention, reduce the burden on emergency rooms and law enforcement, and improve outcomes for individuals experiencing a suicide or mental health crisis. It will also ensure more equitable access to and fill gaps in the current crisis response system, particularly those that affect rural and underserved communities.”
Congress enacted the National Suicide Designation Act in 2020, establishing a nationwide, three-digit suicide and mental health crisis call line. The new 988 lifeline will take advantage of the existing infrastructure of the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.