Rep. Katko Pushes Bipartisan Legislation to Bolster Aid for Suicide Crisis Centers in Central New York

May 5, 2021
Press Release
Katko: Ongoing Pandemic Elevated Need for Additional Suicide Prevention Resources

WASHINGTON— U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) today announced reintroduction of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act. This bipartisan bill, which passed the House last Congress, bolsters aid for suicide crisis centers in Central New York. Rep. Katko reintroduced the measure alongside U.S. Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D, CA-32) and Donald Beyer (D, VA-8).

“Today, I announced the reintroduction of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill that would deliver increased funding for suicide crisis centers in Central New York. These centers, which handle the majority of local calls to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, have long worked on tight budgets while managing ever increasing call volumes,” said Rep. Katko. “The ongoing pandemic has caused significant economic hardship and forced people to isolate. As a result, we have seen spikes in mental illness and suicide among the general population, and within our veteran community. There’s no question, the pandemic has brought this issue to the forefront and it’s time we devote the necessary resources to support those in-need.”

“As we are preparing for the launch of 988, the national three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, we anticipate a dramatic increase in our call volume. We want to be prepared to respond to our community members in need,” said Cheryl Giarrusso, division director, crisis services for Contact Community Services in Syracuse. “Increased funding will allow for increased capacity and will enable our center to provide support for those who need it most.”

“Veteran suicide continues to be a nationally recognized tragedy,” said Jose’ Ramos, VP of government and community relations for Wounded Warrior Project . “There is an urgent need for mental health care and community resources. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act will strengthen the quality and services provided by the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and introduce a pilot program to use other communications platforms like social media and texting for suicide prevention. Wounded Warrior Project applauds the re-introduction of this legislation and looks forward to working with the Committee to see it passed.”

Specifically, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act:

  • Significantly increases authorized funding for the National 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.