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Utah lawmakers call on federal government for 3-digit suicide hotline

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Utah lawmakers call on federal government for 3-digit suicide hotline

By Ryan Morgan | Posted - Mar. 3, 2017 at 11:56 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, declared suicide a public health crisis Thursday as he called for a nationwide crisis hotline.

HCR25 calls on the federal government to designate a nationwide three-digit suicide hotline.

Eliason said he became interested in a nationwide hotline when he and Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, were looking for options for a statewide hotline and found 19 separate numbers with various functions and degrees of responsiveness.

Eliason said he had grown in alarm during a town hall, thinking about the number of Utahns there who might take their own life.

"I spouted off a 10-digit number and thought to myself, 'Nobody is going to remember what I just said,'" he said.

Eliason said some existing crisis lines are sporadic, and a cellphone company suggested a nationwide line would be more effective.

He said that if states did not want to route their calls through the three-digit line, than the goal would be to bundle the three-digit line with existing crisis lines and have calls through the three-digit line route to the 10-digit number.

Thatcher said that while 9-1-1 would be an ever helpful resource for emergencies, its role should focus on dispatching first responders rather than staying on the line for the duration of suicide crisis call, which last 45 minutes on average.

"I do not really care what number they pick. I care that people who are in a time of crisis know where to turn for help," Thatcher said.

The measure received unanimous support from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and will continue forward for debate on the House floor. Email: rmorgan@deseretnews.com

Ryan Morgan

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