Last week, Sue Ann Atkerson, LPC, MBA, CEO of Behavioral Health Link, testified before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee. The hearing, called “Strengthening Communications Networks to Help Americans in Crisis,” included six witnesses who spoke on eight separate bills. Atkerson testified on suicide prevention and 988—the 3-digit dialing code the FCC has formally begun to make the nationwide number for mental health and suicide crisis. The specific legislation she addressed is H.R. 4194, the “National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019.” The bipartisan bill, said Atkerson, is “a historic step toward saving more American lives.” In her oral testimony, she highlighted three primary points: Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, faster access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will save lives, and funding and specialized services are vital for the success of 988.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans overall and the 2nd leading cause of death for those ages 10-34. Atkerson shared with the subcommittee that nearly 50,000 Americans died in 2018, over 1,000 more than the previous year. Some populations, such as veterans, African American youth, Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Natives, and LGBTQ youth are particularly vulnerable to suicide. In fact, LGBTQ youth are “four times more likely than their heterosexual peers to contemplate suicide.” Furthermore, noted Atkerson, the suicide attempt rate for transgender youth has skyrocketed. Chairman Michael F. Doyle Jr. is the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, and Ranking Member Robert Edward Latta is the U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 5th congressional district. Atkerson pointed out that Pennsylvania is ranked 4th in the United States for suicide death, and Ohio is ranked 5th, highlighting that this public health issue affects all of us. No matter where we are.
Hepburn, S. (2020, March 10). Sue Ann Atkerson, CEO of Behavioral Health Link, Testifies Before Congress on 988. #CrisisTalk. https://talk.crisisnow.com/sue-ann-atkerson-ceo-of-behavioral-health-link-testifies-before-congress-on-988/