Culpeper Star-Exponent: Spanberger: VA suicide-prevention efforts get boost as 9-8-8 crisis line rolls out nationwide

CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT STAFF

More federal help for veteran suicide prevention is on the way per legislation the U.S. House of Representatives passed Wednesday to coincide with the national rollout of 9-8-8.

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, the bill’s sponsor, announced the bill’s passage as the Veterans Crisis Line transitions to a universal 9-8-8 hotline.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an an easy-to-remember, three-digit number for 24/7 crisis care. 9-8-8 directly links to the Veterans Crisis Line, after a three-year joint effort by the Veterans Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the FCC, Spanberger’s office said.

In 2020, Spanberger cosponsored and voted to pass the bipartisan bill that led to 9-8-8.

The VA anticipates activating the three-digit number will increase call volume from veterans by 122 to 154 percent, the Virginia congresswoman said.

To help meet expected demand, Spanberger’s legislation was included as part of a federal funding package passed Wednesday that will increase staffing to handle the extra demand for crisis services.

The federal support will make sure there are sufficient suicide-prevention coordinators to manage referrals to the Veterans Crisis Line amid the nationwide transition to the 9-8-8 phone number.

In remarks on the House floor, Spanberger said the new number will save lives.

VA professionals taking the calls will be in contact with high-risk veterans. They will remain in contact with callers, providing follow-up care and connecting vets with resources in their communities, the congresswoman said.

“It is our duty to ensure that there are Suicide Prevention Coordinators in place to care for those who’ve borne the battle,” Spanberger said.

Are you in crisis? Call or text 9-8-8 or chat online at 988lifeline.org. Veterans can reach the Veterans Crisis Line directly by dialing 9-8-8 and pressing “1.”

9-8-8 is confidential, free, and available 24/7/365 for connecting trained crisis counselors with those experiencing a mental health, substance use, or suicidal crisis.

Access is available through every landline, cell phone and voice-over internet device in the U.S.

9-8-8 will be available in Spanish, along with interpretation services in more than 150 languages.

If it’s available in their area, those who call 9-8-8 and need further support may get help from mobile crisis response teams, as exist in the Culpeper area.

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