Utah Senate passes bill that would fund 988 suicide hotline

On Friday, a bill that would create an account to fund use of the 988 suicide hotline passed its final vote in the Senate unanimously.

Senate Bill 155 would create the Statewide Behavioral Health Crisis Response Account which could be funded through legislative appropriation or through private donation. The account would then be used for the costs of running 988, including telecommunication fees and assistance to local mental health crisis teams.

West Valley City Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher, who is sponsoring the bill, says mental health crises can be swift, devastating and most people don’t know where to go if they are in one.

“Think about 911. The smallest child, if they know what a phone is, they know how to get police, fire and an ambulance. But as grown adults, most of us have no idea where to turn in a mental health or behavioral health crisis. That’s where 988 comes in. If we have a three digit mental health number, and folks know how to reach it, we can get them through that 15 minute crisis window.”

The bill would also require the state to apply for federal medicaid waivers to help fund the account and audit the infrastructure currently used for 911 calls to determine whether some of it could be used in 988 calls. David Spatifore, who spoke on behalf of several organizations in committee including the Chiefs of Police Association and Fire Chiefs Association, supported the bill. He says the measure would be able to hopefully mitigate overall costs through the audit.

“We hope the task force plays a significant role to determine how much of that infrastructure can be used to accept the 988 calls with the proper expertise to respond to the 988 requests.”

Senate Bill 155 now moves onto the House of Representatives after passing its final vote in the Senate.