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Governor signs bill to ensure suicide hotlines in Utah don’t go to voicemail

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Posted at 2:47 PM, Mar 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-23 16:47:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s governor has signed a bill that ensures someone will always answer a mental health crisis line.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed House Bill 41 and House Bill 42, which do more to expand crisis line services. The Utah State Legislature passed the bills in response to the state’s suicide epidemic.

There are approximately 20 crisis hotlines across the state, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said, but only one of them is staffed 24 hours a day by licensed clinical social workers.

“Having those phone lines available at all times to be answered is critical. Can you imagine if you called 911 and received voice mail? Or a busy signal?” he said during a House floor debate in January.

House Bill 41 spends about $2 million to ensure crisis lines get answered or at least roll-over to another line where someone will answer. House Bill 42 grants a Medicaid waiver to provide more mental health crisis services, particularly in rural Utah.

The new bill was pushed by the mother of 16-year-old Hannah Warburton, who took her own life. Hannah’s mother said a check of her phone found she’d tried to call a crisis hotline, but the call was never answered.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK. Utahns can also visit Hope4Utah and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for additional resources. You can also download the SafeUT app for instant, confidential crisis services.