Lafazan files legislation for new suicide hotline number

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Legislator Joshua Lafazan (D-Woodbury) says he is running on his record. (Photo by Rose Weldon)

Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan has announced that he has filed legislation to establish 9-8-8 as the suicide hotline number for the county.

“Suicide is a national emergency in the United States, and we must treat it as such,” Lafazan wrote in an email to constituents sent on Wednesday.

The legislator, whose 18th District includes East Hills, cited statistics from The New York Times stating that more than 1.4 million adults attempted suicide in 2017 and, in 2018, over 2.2 million people called 1-800-273-TALK (8255), recognized as the national suicide prevention lifeline.

“This last statistic is a bright spot amidst the darkness,” Lafazan wrote. “However, you would be hard-pressed to find a room where 100 percent of its occupants knew the 10-digit suicide hotline number by heart. That is why the Federal Communications Commission strongly recommends the designation of a national three-digit suicide lifeline telephone number.”

Pointing out that individuals in distress know to dial 911 for medical emergencies, Lafazan said that a similar number for mental health emergencies would be better.

Under the bill, Lafazan writes, calls to the 9-8-8 hotline would be routed to the Long Island Crisis Center’s existing Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention Hotline. Additionally, it would direct the county executive’s office to seek out grants for a public awareness campaign surrounding the number.

Lafazan said he hopes the bill would lead to a “ubiquitous level of recognition for this number” in his generation.

“I hope that everybody who is considering self-harm remembers that resources are available here in Nassau County and that no matter how difficult life may become, or no matter the level of severity of the issues you are dealing with, we are here to help you.”

If passed, the number would be the first of its kind in New York State and in the country as a whole.

“I know this bill will save lives, and I urge my colleagues to pass it immediately,” Lafazan wrote.

Lafazan, who was re-elected for a second term in the legislature on Nov. 5, has spent most of his time as a freshman legislator proposing bills focusing on care for veterans or those with substance abuse issues.

A bill passed last year uses funds from New York State’s Timothy’s Law to create a 24-hour hotline for substance abuse issues.

No date has been set yet for a discussion or vote on the bill.

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