This morning, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the FCC is moving forward with a report and order to establish 988 as the new, nationwide, 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors and will vote on the order at its July 16 Open Meeting. The rules, if adopted, will require all phone service providers to begin directing all 988 calls to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of approximately 170 crisis centers. While this transition takes place, Americans who need help should continue to contact the Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats. The rules would apply to all telecommunications carriers as well as all interconnected and one-way VoIP service providers. The draft final rules reject a request from phone service providers for a longer transition period. But they also reflect the real challenges of such a nationwide effort including the need for widespread network changes and providing time for Congress, other federal agencies, and local call centers to prepare for the expected increase in the volume of calls.
LGBT Tech applauds the FCC for moving forward with the implementation of 988 on such a timely manner. Suicide is a pandemic disease for LGBTQ+ people living in the United States. According to the Trevor Project, LGB youth in particular seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of their heterosexual counterparts, and are almost five times as likely to have attempted it. LGB youth with unsupportive families face an even higher risk, being 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Forty percent of transgender adults according to the National Center for Transgender Equality have made a suicide attempt, with ninety-two percent of those surveyed having attempted suicide before the age of 25. With such high risk for suicide among our populations, LGBTQ+ individuals desperately need access to suicide prevention resources.
LGBT Tech has been working very closely with the FCC on this issue and previously submitted initial comments dealing specifically with the FCC's resolution to make 988 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's new call number, as well as providing and expanding LGBTQ+ informed crisis support through the Lifeline's services. These measures come as the culmination of ongoing efforts between the FCC and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, including LGBT Tech and the Trevor Project, to ensure LGBTQ+ individuals can receive adequate care in crisis. We look forward to continuing our work with the FCC and Congress to ensure equitable and thoughtful implementation of this Order which will provide much-needed resources and save lives in our communities. As the FCC takes steps to implement 988, LGBT Tech will continue to make sure those implementations include support for LGBTQ+ communities.