Proposed legislation, small fee on phone bills could fund suicide prevention line

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – Starting mid-July, Kentucky will adopt the National Suicide Prevention Line (NSPL) three-digit phone number: 9-8-8. In addition to the number change, lawmakers are discussing a bill that would implement a small fee onto phone bills in order to fund this call line.

Mental Health America of Kentucky says the fee would be about 70 cents a month, which translates to less than $10 a year, to fund what the organization says is a life saving service. Mental Health America of Kentucky says phone bills already have a small 9-1-1 fee added to them for funding, so the group is hopeful this legislation will pass to fund another important phone line.

“What if we didn’t have a phone line? What if it wasn’t answered? What if it’s on hold for so long someone gives up?” says Marcie Timmerman, executive director of Mental Health America of Kentucky. “July 16th it’s happening, we’re having 9-8-8 switch-over and that is a much easier number to remember so we do expect a high influx of calls, just because it’s so easy to remember and people are finally going to be calling. Which is wonderful, we’re going to be saving Kentuckians’ lives.”

The following is part of a press release from Mental Health America of Kentucky:

House Bill 373 is Kentucky’s chance to make mental health a priority across the commonwealth.

This funding would create a full continuum of crisis care for suicide prevention and mental health, including fully-staffed local call centers answering NSPL calls and increased access to mobile crisis units, crisis stabilization units and other wraparound services.

The #fund988ky movement has been working closely with the state, the community mental health centers that answer Kentucky’s NSPL calls, the 9-1-1 emergency services board, and other mental health first responders from across the Commonwealth. Consistent, reliable, and permanent funding structures for the mental health crisis system in Kentucky are needed already – and that need is growing.

The vision of those planning the implementation of 9-8-8 in Kentucky is to have a person in mental health or suicidal crisis connected with a trained local counselor who can address immediate needs and can connect them to ongoing care. This will reduce healthcare spending with cost-effective early intervention, reduce use of law enforcement and other safety resources, and meet the growing need for crisis intervention at scale. Having the NSPL calls answered locally by fellow Kentuckians – is at the heart of the #fund988ky goal.The fee of $0.70 per mobile phone line is the same as that charged by the 9-1-1 system. It is collected as part of the individual’s cell phone bill – or upfront when purchasing prepaid items.

The fee will create a permanent funding mechanism for mental health crisis response in much the same way we have permanent, consistent, and reliable funding for 9-1-1. 9-8-8 is a mental health crisis response and should be funded in the same way as 9-1-1 is funded as the physical health crisis response system.

The fee’s generated income would be managed by a multi-stakeholder board who will monitor the operations and decide what emergency response mechanisms are needed – again repeating a similar structure that exists for the statewide 9-1-1 fund.

We’ve known a long time that rural Kentuckians and veterans face bigger challenges to receiving mental health services, and crisis services are not any different. At the end of the day, mental health needs must be addressed in the same way we address physical health needs, and that starts by fully funding 9-8-8.

Categories: Featured, News, State News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *