Mental Health Colorado Seeks to Enact 988 Crisis Response Number to Combat Rising Suicide Rates

April 26, 2021

Media Contact:
Flora Welsh, Communications Manager

Mental Health Colorado Seeks to Enact 988 Crisis Response Number to Combat Rising Suicide Rates

A Bill Concerning Enacting the Federal Law Has Bi-Partisan Sponsorship

DENVER—To address the growing suicide rates in the U.S., Congress passed legislation last October to approve a proposal designating 988 as the national suicide prevention crisis hotline number – much like 911. Now, it is up to Colorado to put the legislation into action.

l Health Colorado and state legislative sponsors—Senators Cleave Simpson (R) and Chris Kolker (D) and Representatives Lisa Cutter (D) and Matt Soper (R)—introduced Senate Bill 21-154, which will enact the federal legislation establishing the 9-8-8 suicide prevention crisis response number in Colorado. Additionally, it will create a sustainable funding source for receiving and responding to calls in the community.

Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, especially among youth. Studies have shown that most suicide attempts are made within three hours, or less, of someone having suicidal thoughts, and some in as few as five minutes.

“We need to equip Colorado with the right tools to fight our high suicide rates and mental health crises,” said Moe Keller, Director of Advocacy at Mental Health Colorado. “9-8-8 is a memorable three-digit number that will provide access to trained suicide prevention crisis counselors who will just be seconds away. It’s indisputable, this number will save lives.”

The bill designates a suicide prevention crisis hotline center to provide crisis care coordination and intervention services to individuals accessing the 9-8-8 suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline from any jurisdiction within Colorado, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It also requires the suicide prevention crisis line to provide follow-up services.

Senate Bill 21-154 will be heard by the Senate Finance Committee at 1:30 p.m. this Wednesday, April 28 to discuss funding options to enact the program.

“This bill is especially important because it addresses the need for care, not cuffs. 9-8-8 creates a pathway to addressing mental health needs with an appropriate health care response,” said Mental Health Colorado President & CEO Vincent Atchity. “In our mission to create healthier minds across the life span, providing a mental health care response for mental health care needs and getting law enforcement out of the crisis response picture is essential to saving lives and ending discrimination. Our legislators need to act to create a funding solution so that the state is ready for the volume of increased calls that will be coming in to the 988 suicide prevention lifeline.”

Until the new hotline goes into effect, if you are in crisis, please call the current Colorado Crisis Services line at 844-493-8255, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 38255.

About Mental Health Colorado:

Mental Health Colorado is the state’s leading advocate for promoting mental wellness, ending shame and discrimination, and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use care. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and affiliate of Mental Health America.