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FTC votes to set up a new hotline to address the increasing rates of suicide

On Thursday the Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to proceed with a proposal to set up a new hotline similar to 911 — only, instead of dialing the police, the number would connect callers to experts in suicide prevention and mental health. The proposed number, 988, would link callers to an already existing network of crisis centers around the country set up by the Department of Health and Human Services.

That network, comprised of 163 such call centers around the country, is already accessible at 1-800-273-TALK or online right here. But the simplified alternative laid out Thursday would, in the words of an FCC report published in August, "make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources."

Thursday's FCC vote does not mean you can dial 988 today and be connected with the suicide prevention hotline. The move simply represents a major step forward in the process, opening a period of public comment on the proposal before the commission reaches the stage of finalizing the rules. The notice proposes an 18-month time frame for making the number a reality.

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