At Contact Community Services, Rep. John Katko Announces Bipartisan Initiative to Bolster Aid for Suicide Crisis Centers

September 30, 2019
Press Release

EAST SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Standing today at Contact Community Services, U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) announced a bipartisan initiative to bolster aid for suicide crisis centers.

Over the next four years, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline expects 12 million calls –  the same number of calls received for the 12-year period between 2005 and 2017.  With call volume and call wait times already at unmanageable levels, the growing demand will only further constrain the network and reduce access to this life-saving resource. Currently, local crisis centers like Contact Community Services, which handle the majority of the calls to the Lifeline, receive small stipends of $1500 to $2500 that do not support the calls being answered.  In order to handle the rising call volume, local crisis centers need more resources and more funding.

“Crisis centers like Contact Community Services work every day to help prevent suicide and provide counseling services for those in desperate need,” said Rep. John Katko. “But these organizations are already doing this tremendous work on a tight budget.  We need to support these organizations, and my bipartisan legislation does this by both by bolstering funding and implementing programming to eliminate wait times, ensure those seeking assistance receive follow up, and make resources are available to friends and family members of those in crisis.”

“Increased funding will make a tremendous impact on our local call center and in the Central New York community,” said Cheryl Giarrusso, Director, Crisis Intervention Services of Contact Community Services. “This legislation would dramatically expand the services needed to assist those in crisis and ensure they receive the help needed in a timely manner.”

Specifically, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act:

  • Significantly increases authorized funding for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline from $12 million to $50 million;
  • Requires HHS to develop and implement a plan to increase quality assurance, eliminate call wait times, implement evidence-based practices like follow-up, ensure resources are available to friends and family of those in crisis, create guidelines to carry out periodic testing of the Lifeline;
  • Requires increased coordination and data sharing between the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the CDC;
  • Creates a pilot program to research and employ innovative technologies for suicide prevention;
  • Requires a study and report to Congress from both HHS and GAO on the plan implemented by HHS to reform the Lifeline as well as other recommendations for improvement to the Lifeline’s operations

“Suicide has affected far too many families in our community and nationwide – and we have tremendous work to do to combat the prevalence of suicide and reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.  I remain committed to addressing this issue in Congress,” continued Katko.  

September marks National Suicide Awareness Month. As Co-Chair of both the bipartisan Suicide Prevention Task Force and Mental Health Caucus, Rep. Katko has worked across party lines to advocate for improved access to mental healthcare and to  reduce suicide.