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Reps. Stewart, Moulton, and Cardenas Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Safeguard 988 Mental Health Emergencies Lifeline

WASHINGTON— Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT), Seth Moulton (D-MA), and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) have introduced the Create Accountability and Liability Against Lifeline Attacks (CALL) Act of 2022.

Since it was launched in July, the 988 lifeline has seen a 45% increase in call and messaging volume. Response times have kept pace with the higher call volumes.        

As part of a continued effort to improve the effectiveness of 988, the CALL Act would make it illegal to intentionally obstruct the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line. 

“The 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an invaluable opportunity to ensure the growing number of people in a mental health crisis can get the help they need,” said Congressman Stewart. “And my colleagues and I are thrilled to see this bipartisan solution making a difference, as new data shows it may have saved more than 150,000 lives in its first month of implementation. But we’re also deeply disappointed to learn that an extremist group targeted the veterans crisis line with prank calls. This is a critical resource for those heroes who served our country, and to disrupt that resource is not only deplorable, but un-American. I’m proud to stand beside my Democrat colleagues in support of this swift, commonsense solution.”

“Less than three months after launching, the 988 Lifeline is already saving thousands of lives. It’s imperative that we take proactive measures to stop any possible attempts to undermine this success.” said Congressman Moulton. “Attempting to or encouraging others to disrupt 988 means depriving someone in crisis of a much-needed reprieve. The CALL Act will ensure people who need help will continue to get it quickly.  I appreciate the partnership of my colleagues Tony Cárdenas and Chris Stewart on this important issue.”

“Congress created the 988 Lifeline for the simple purpose of getting people in crisis the help they need,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “Since its July launch, 988 has time and again proven to be a lifesaving resource for countless Americans, including the brave men and women who have served our nation. Anyone who intentionally gets in the way of someone receiving the care they deserve should be held accountable. I’m proud to join Congressmen Moulton and Stewart in introducing the CALL Act to prevent individuals from purposefully obstructing calls to or services from 988.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the month of August saw over 250,000 calls, 64,115 chats, and 40,627 texts to the 988 lifeline. The average speed of answer was 36 seconds for phone calls and 34 seconds for online chats. The average contact time for phone calls was 11 minutes, 22 minutes for chats, and an hour and fifteen minutes for texts. 

Last month, Reps. Stewart, Moulton, and Cárdenas were alarmed by reports of attempts to obstruct the veteran’s crisis line by an extremist group. While the alleged attempts did not cause any disruption to the line, the CALL Act would address any similar attempts in the future. 

Full bill text can be found here.

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