In 2020, advocates across the country urged Congress to pass the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. That historic legislation made 988 the future phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and paved the way for each state to fund 988 the same way as 911. With the introduction of House Bill 2281 in the state legislature this session, Kansas now has an opportunity to do just that.

HB 2281 will ensure that Kansas has a robust crisis response infrastructure in place and local call centers are adequately staffed and resourced before the new 988 number goes fully live in July 2022 (until then, please continue to call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the Lifeline). There is no time to waste — crisis call volume is projected to increase significantly in the coming months as residents continue to face stressors related to the pandemic and as public messaging campaigns get underway to promote 988 as the future number for the Lifeline.

I support funding to implement the 988 mental health emergency number because I lost my 29 year old son to suicide in 2010 and I believe that both he and I would have accessed the hotline for support and guidance.

We all have a role to play in preventing suicide. Please join me in reaching out to your own state Representative to urge their support for HB 2281. We must also continue to help each other now and after the pandemic by learning the warning signs for suicide (afsp.org/signs), how to have a #RealConvo about mental health (afsp.org/realconvo), and how to help someone who is struggling (afsp.org/get-help).

Beth Pannbacker

Manhattan

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