“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,” he said. “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.”
Katko continued, “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.”
The legislation is supported by local and national organizations, including the Wounded Warrior Project and Syracuse-based Contact Community Services.
Jose Ramos, vice president of government and community relations for Wounded Warrior Project, highlighted the need to address mental health care and suicides among veterans.
“The Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act will strengthen the quality and services provided by (the lifeline), and introduce a pilot program to use other communications platforms like social media and texting for suicide prevention,” Ramos said.
Cheryl Giarrusso, division director of crisis services for Contact Community Services, added that they are expecting more calls after the launch of a three-digit dialing code, 988, for the lifeline. The code is expected to be online by July 2022.