Reed, advocates call for 3-digit suicide prevention hotline number


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The numbers are clear and prevalent: 911 for emergencies; 211 for assistance from organizations like United Way; 711 to connect the deaf with those who can hear and speak.

One day, another three-digit phone number could be instituted nationwide to help those in crisis who may be feeling suicidal.

Sen. Jack Reed is sponsoring a bill with colleagues across the aisle to assign a new abbreviated dialing number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Right now, that number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It connects to the nearest of a network of crisis centers across the country – including BH Link, a behavioral health service center in East Providence serving the region.

The vision is to give the Lifeline network system the three-digit number, 9-8-8.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act would mandate the abbreviated dialing code be assigned to the network of centers.

“Asking for help is never easy,” Reed said. “But we need to be sure, no matter where anyone is, 24/7, if you’re in a moment of crisis, all you have to do is dial 9-8-8.”

Besides BH Link and its overseeing organization, Horizon Healthcare Partners, the Rhode Island Department of Health and The Samaritans of Rhode Island joined Reed Friday morning to champion the idea. They said being able to dial three numbers will help save lives in Rhode Island and across the country.

BH Link has been receiving about 96 calls on average from people in distress every week since they opened, according to CEO of Horizon Healthcare Partners Jim Ryczek.

Reed is also calling for more support for mental health coverage and federal resources for suicide prevention call centers – as well as the recruiting and training of more suicide prevention clinicians.

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