Molinaro Builds on 988 Crisis Lifeline Advocacy, Introduces Bipartisan Bill To Get Calls Routed to Local Call Centers
Washington, December 19, 2023
Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19) today announced the introduction of the 988 Lifeline Location Improvement Act of 2023. This bipartisan bill will advance an effort Rep. Molinaro jumpstarted earlier this year to get the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to implement technology that reroutes calls to the National 988 Crisis Lifeline to local call centers. Rep. Molinaro introduced the bill alongside U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY-20). A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM).
Unlike 911 calls, which are routed to a local call center based on the caller’s current location, 988 calls are routed based on a person’s area code. If someone moves or travels, their call to 988 could be sent to a call center hundreds of miles away. 988 is not as effective if the person answering a call is unfamiliar with the caller’s location and cannot provide accurate, local resources.
Rep. Molinaro’s bill requires the FCC to establish a multi-stakeholder advisory committee to develop and rollout 988 geolocation services. The committee must be comprised of members from key sectors, including telecommunications, handset manufacturing, 911 services, state and local government and representatives from organizations involved in suicide prevention, crisis intervention, veterans' services, substance use treatment, and mental health treatment.
Rep. Molinaro said, "911 calls are rerouted to local call centers. There’s no reason we can’t do the same for 988. My bipartisan bill convenes a group of logistical and subject matter experts to come up with a plan to roll this technology out. We know the 988 Lifeline is a proven life-saving tool and should maximize its full potential."
Hannah Wesolowski, Chief Advocacy Officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said, "The nationwide availability of 988 has provided us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine how we respond to people in mental health crisis. NAMI is grateful to Representatives Molinaro and Tonko for introducing the 988 Lifeline Location Improvement Act of 2023, which would start the task of identifying the unique privacy and legal challenges associated with transmitting geolocation information with calls to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline so we can ensure caller privacy but also best help people seeking in-person support.”