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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Rep. Shallcross Smith and Sen. Cano highlight start of new 988 suicide prevention hotline
STATE HOUSE — Rhode Islanders experiencing mental health crises can now call 988 on their phones to be put in touch with mental health and suicide prevention professionals.
The new hotline is the result of 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. The legislation was included in the adopted state budget.
The spending plan 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.”
“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.”
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.
Representative Shallcross Smith and Senator Cano first proposed the designated hotline center in legislation (
) they introduced earlier this year.
“We thank all of the advocates for their tireless work and dedication in bringing this vital hotline into reality. This phone number will save lives, simple as that, and we are grateful for another available tool to combat rising mental health issues in our society,” concluded Representative Shallcross Smith and Senator Cano.
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.
For more information, contact:
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
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