A bill to implement an Arkansas operated suicide prevention hotline was passed through House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee Tuesday.
Arkansas calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are filtered to nearby states like Tennessee because Arkansas currently does not have a hotline. In recent years, the state has moved from No. 16 to No. 10 for the highest rate of suicides in the nation.
House Bill 1775, sponsored by Rep. Bob Johnson, proposed a mandate to the Department of Health to establish and maintain a suicide prevention hotline.
It was noted in committee if 70 percent of Arkansas calls to the National Prevention Hotline are not answered in Arkansas, the state will lose approximately $1.4 million in suicide prevention dollars.
Advocates for the bill stated that approximately 571 Arkansans die of suicide each year and more die from suicide than vehicle wrecks and homicides. It was also stated that a person is two and one-half times more likely to die of suicide than of homicide.
With no testimony against the bill, lawmakers were informed that multiple state organizations backed the bill referencing the hotline is important for veterans and could also assist family members.
A similar bill, House Bill 1705, is set for amending.