Letter to the Editor: 988 Suicide Hotline Bill close to becoming a reality

OPINION

BY ADMINISTRATOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2023

Last session, I sponsored a bipartisan bill to help save the lives of students. LD 1263 “An Act to Require Certain School Identification Cards to Include the Telephone Number of a Suicide and Crisis Hotline,” adds the 988 suicide hotline number to school ID cards that are already provided to students. If put into law, it would simply require all public and charter schools and all public and private universities that already issue students IDs to include the 988 number on them.

The number would be put on ID cards for sixth grade through college age students. Maine CDC shared data showing that since 2017, 13,782 teenagers (19 and under) have gone to the emergency room because they demonstrated intent to commit suicide. Supporters of this legislation believe every student needs access to vital support and council in a live threatening situation. It establishes one more critical opportunity to save a life by offering another way of addressing mental health challenges.

Any individual that calls the 988 number will be routed to their closest area code and find immediate HELP. The life-saving contact will have minimal, if any, local implementation costs. New Hampshire passed a similar law in 2022.

This bipartisan bill passed unanimously passed through committee and the House and Senate. In a time when politics have become so partisan, my colleagues and I were able to work together on this. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention supports this bill. Their testimony stressed the need for increased mental health programs and resources that are available for students who may be struggling. The Maine Education Association, the Maine School Superintendents Association, the Maine School Board Association, and MADSEC all testified in support of this bill. I am proud of my work and the efforts of my colleagues across the aisle on this common sense bill intended to save lives.

Currently, the bill sits on the Special Appropriations table and will be carried over to the next session. I look forward to finishing the work on this bill, so that we can focus on saving the lives of people all across Maine. I urge my colleagues across the aisle to continue to support this life saving bill and work with me to finish the job. Call your local Representative and Senator to insist it gets moved forward.

Representative Sheila Lyman
R – Livermore Falls

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