Murkowski: 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is Activated in Alaska
Program Aims to Decrease Suicides, Increase Mental and Behavioral Health Care
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will go live in Alaska today, July 16, 2022. As a champion in Congress for mental and behavioral health resources, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) issued the following statement of support:
“Unfortunately, the number of suicides in Alaska continues to rise, particularly among military members, veterans, and now young people. We must do all we can to ensure that mental health resources are more readily and easily available to those in need. As I continue my work to help bolster mental health resources, I’m proud to join many of my fellow Alaskans in spreading the word about the new 988 program. This will ensure all Alaskans have access to life-saving services in the midst of crisis,” said Senator Murkowski. “From a young age, we’re taught that in the face of a life-threatening emergency—if our physical safety is at risk—we call 9-1-1. It just makes sense that we would create a similar system—simple and direct—to address a mental or behavioral health emergency. Mental health is health, and now those in need can call 9-8-8.”
According to the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Alaska youth and young adults, ages 15-34. By calling 9-8-8, an individual in distress, or friends and family who believe someone they love may be experiencing a crisis, can access support, regardless of their geographic location or any other barriers to care.
“Alaska has some of the highest suicide rates (per capita) in the nation; connecting individuals with mental health services and resources is a vital component in suicide prevention. The Alaska Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is proud to support the rollout and transition from the ten-digit 800 number to an easy-to-remember three-digit lifeline of 988,” said Dustin Morris, Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention- Alaska Chapter.
For more information about the 988 program, click here.
Senator Murkowski recognizes that in Alaska, suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death and that the impact of a death by suicide affects families and communities forever. She continues to work with her colleagues to strengthen and expand mental health resources and suicide prevention efforts, including for youth, children, active-duty military members, veterans, and Alaska Native communities.
In February 2022, Senators Murkowski and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced the bipartisan Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act, which would authorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide direct funding assistance to school districts for comprehensive student mental health promotion and suicide prevention efforts. This type of funding assistance from SAMHSA is currently available for colleges and universities, but not for K-12 school districts.
In May 2022, Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Murkowski introduced the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization Act to enhance youth suicide prevention programs and improve mental health services for young people. Since its enactment, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act has delivered approximately $750 million in suicide prevention funding nationwide.
In June 2022, Senators Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced the Don Young Arctic Warrior Act, legislation that will, in part, combat the suicide crisis the U.S. military faces. The measure increases the Department of Defense’s (DOD) ability to address the shortfall of behavioral health providers by establishing a graduate program in counseling and social work at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. The bill also provides for scholarships and retention bonuses for those serving in the behavioral health field.
In June 2022, Senator Murkowski voted in favor of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, targeted legislation to address gaps in the law that have enabled mass shootings, including the need for additional mental health and school safety resources. The bill provides historic investments in our mental health care system, including for suicide prevention efforts.