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A new bill suggests funding 988 by raising phone bills

It would be 12 to 25 cents per phone bill, similar to how 911 is funded.

ST PAUL, Minn. — There's also a new push for more local funding of the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Although this is a nationwide number, Minnesota's legislative leaders say federal funding is not enough.

In an overarching news conference about mental health in Minnesota, stakeholders made it clear that our state is in a crisis.

"The number of people who died by suicide in 2021, went up by over 100 to over 800 Minnesotans who died by suicide," NAMI's executive director Sue Abderholden said.

Of the several efforts to increase funding for mental health support, DFL representative Jess Hanson introduced HF1566, which would tack on somewhere between 12 to 25 cents on every landline or wireless bill to fund 988 and its operations.

"People don't want to see added anything onto anything right now," Hanson said. "[But] it's a small enough charge spread out equally among all of us to contribute to something that the vast majority of us will encounter in some point in time."

Powerful testimony from Patrick Rhone, mental health survivor, and the president of the board for mental health Minnesota showed the simplicity, and the necessity of 988.

"I have and may likely again have a day when my illness tries to kill me, when my fight against it is losing and when my spirit is weak," Rhone said. "And just for a few moments, a second, I might gather the strength to pick up a phone and make a call."

Hanson also said it's not just about the projected $9.8 million the charge may bring.

"Having this line item on your cell phone bill also helps promote awareness of the number," she said. "When we're looking, 'what is this 25 cent charge for 988?' People will Google that and learn more about it, and hopefully."

"Being able to call a number like 988 and have someone on the other end of the phone, have a peer specialist who knows what to say exactly who to call who to send and what to do-- in that moment is the difference between life and death for me," Rhone said.

The bill needs to go through several committees, but Hanson said she is confident it will pass with bipartisan support.

If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, there is help available from the following resources:

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