Congressman Chris Stewart to co-chair new 988 & Crisis Services Task ForceApr 15, 2022 10:18AM ● By Becky Ginos
Congressman Chris Stewart meets with sterling scholars at Woods Cross High. Stewart has championed a universal emergency hotline for those experiencing a mental health crisis. Courtesy photo
WASHINGTON—It’s taken close to four years to create a 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the emergency hotline is set to go live in July. As part of that effort, a new Bipartisan House 988 & Crisis Services Task Force was announced last week to ensure it is implemented effectively.
Congressman Chris Stewart will co-chair the task force with Reps. Grace Napolitano, John Katko and Tony Dardenas.
“It’s taken so long,” Stewart said. “It should have taken six months to a year instead it’s been closer to four years.”
There’s been a heightened awareness of mental health issues since the pandemic, he said. “We’re just beginning to understand the impact it had on kids with schools shut down, social isolation and sitting in front of screens all day. One in three teens, especially girls, considered suicide. There is anxiety and depression in ways we’ve never seen before. 9-8-8 is an effective tool available for people to get the help they need.”
Utah is really prepared to implement the hotline, said Stewart. “Other states are not. The worst thing would be for someone to call 9-8-8 in a desperate situation and no one is on the phone.”
States need the funding, infrastructure, staff, law enforcement, an emergency response team and suicide or other mental health professionals in place, he said. “The task force will oversee funding at the federal level and put pressure on states to implement the hotline. We want states to collaborate with one another. A number of states have reached out and asked ‘how can you help us?’ We can put them in contact with other states.”
Utah has put in a lot of work, Stewart said. “They are ready to respond.”
Suicide is a big problem – especially among youth, he said. “We want to make people aware of this tool.”
The task force is bipartisan, said Stewart. “Mental health is not a Democrat/Republican problem. Regardless if Nancy Pelosi is the speaker or someone else, we want to make sure this doesn’t fall by the wayside even if leadership changes.” λ