State House Designates 988 Emergency Number for Suicide or Other Behavioral Health Crises

Suicide rates in Washington could come down if a bill OK’d in the state House Wednesday becomes law. House Bill 1477, establishes 988 as a designated emergency number for people to call in the event of a suicide and behavioral health crises.  Dan Frizzell from the House Democratic Caucus has more.

ORWALL: “A person who’s experiencing emotional pain wants the pain to end.”

Representative Tina Orwall is the Legislature’s go-to lawmaker when it comes to suicide prevention. She’s authored a number of bills in the last decade credited with making a difference, and on Wednesday her fellow House members in virtual Olympia approved one more. That legislation, if it makes it through the Senate, would establish 988 as the suicide-prevention and behavior health crisis hotline number, freeing up 911 operators to deal with law-enforcement emergencies.

ORWALL: “We have lost over 5,000 people to suicide in the last five years. For most people the only number they know to call is 911. This may end up having an officer come to their house. Officers are not social workers. One in four police shootings are a result of officers responding to people in behavioral health crisis. We have options.” 

Orwall, a veteran Democrat from Des Moines who serves as speaker pro tem of the House, wrote the bill to align Washington with the federal Suicide Hotline Act, which reserved the 988 designation for this sort of crisis. Her bill leaves the House on a 78 to 18 bipartisan vote and is now set to be taken up in the Senate. At the state Capitol, Dan Frizzell.

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