Skip to content

Are you in a crisis? Call or text 988 or text TALK to 741741

¿Estás en una crisis? Llama o envía un mensaje de texto al 988 o envía un mensaje de texto con AYUDA al 741741

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Advocates Gather Nationwide, Calling for Action on Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Policy

March 7, 2024 – 5 min read


State Capitol Day

Top priorities include securing continued funding for state 988 crisis services systems and increasing lethal means safety

NEW YORK (March 7, 2024) - Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, but it can be prevented. Each year from January to May, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) chapters host State Capitol Day events across the country to provide the organization’s over 50,000 Volunteer Advocates an opportunity to meet directly with public officials and impact suicide prevention legislation and policies in their home state. Two of this year’s top policy priorities include securing permanent, sustainable funding for state 988 crisis services systems and increasing lethal means safety.

According to 2022 provisional data from the CDC, 49,449 people died by suicide in the U.S., up 3% from 48,183 in 2021. This increase underscores the urgency of prioritizing state and local policies to improve mental health and prevent suicide.

“During polarizing times, there is nothing more powerful than uniting in a shared mission to improve wellbeing and prevent loss of life,” said AFSP Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Laurel Stine, J.D.. “Thanks in no small part to the work of our Advocates, 48 suicide prevention and mental health bills we supported at the AFSP State Capitol Day events in 2023 have become law.”

988 Crisis Services 

This year’s top policy priorities reflect the current concerns and issues impacting communities nationwide, including legislation that continues to build sustained investment in the 988 crisis services system. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a three-digit phone number making it easier for people to reach a crisis center by call or text. The Lifeline operates 24/7 to offer free, confidential support for crises related to suicidal thoughts and behaviors, mental health and substance use. Permanent and sustainable funding is crucial to ensuring that individuals in crisis reach centers in their state that are ready to meet increasing call and text demand, and coordinate local in-person crisis response and referrals to community mental health services when needed. It is paramount that all states have robust funding to ensure that all their residents have access to a full continuum of crisis response services: someone to call (988 crisis call centers), someone to respond (mobile crisis response teams), and somewhere to go (crisis respite and stabilization centers).

It is clear that more state 988 investment and support is needed, as only eight states have passed legislation to sustainably fund their 988 systems via a monthly telecom fee, the gold standard in permanent 988 funding. AFSP advocates are continuing to support legislation in a number of states that aims to put permanent funding mechanisms in place for 988 and to build out the crisis response continuum statewide, including:

  • A. 8020 in New York, which would authorize a monthly surcharge up to 35 cents per access line on telecom customers to pay for costs associated with the state’s 988 Lifeline system.
  • HB 933/SB 974 in Maryland, which would establish a monthly 988 fee of 25 cents on telecom customers, to be deposited into the state’s existing 988 Trust Fund to sustainably fund the state’s 988 Lifeline system.
  • SB 6251, SB 5853, and HB 2408 in Washington, which together would improve statewide coordination between 988 and 911, expand in-person crisis relief centers to serve children aged eight years and older, and increase the availability of text and chat services for the state’s Native and Strong Lifeline (Washington is one of the eight states to have already enacted a monthly 988 telecom fee).

“I’m advocating with AFSP for the establishment of a monthly 988 telecom fee of 25 cents per cell phone line ($3.00 per year) in Maryland,” said AFSP Maryland Chapter Advocacy Ambassador Sue Maskaleris. “The estimated $15-20 million generated by this fee would fund call center operations, the hiring of staff, investment in technology and training and further integration of other crisis services. Since the launch of 988, the volume of calls has increased by almost 50% and the volume of texts has increased 14-fold in the state. We need a permanent, self-sustaining source of funding for our call centers so that no outreach to 988 will go unanswered.”

Lethal Means Safety

Educating communities about lethal means safety is also a top AFSP priority. One of the most effective methods of preventing suicide is to give suicidal individuals and those who care for them something they desperately need: time. This includes time for the suicidal risk to diminish, time for the intense suicidal impulse to pass, or time for someone to intervene with mental health support and resources. For this reason, AFSP Advocates in a number of states are supporting legislation that aims to offer more options for firearm owners experiencing a suicidal crisis, or concerned about a future crisis, to voluntarily protect and keep themselves safe, including:

  • S.B. 2259/H.B. 2197 in Tennessee, which would establish a “Voluntary Do-Not-Sell List” for the state, authorizing individuals to add their own names into the firearm background check system to protect themselves against future impulsive firearm suicide attempts. 
  • HB 4096 in Oregon, which would increase community secure storage options for firearm owners by establishing and defining a “firearm hold agreement” in which licensed firearm dealers can temporarily store an individual’s firearm(s) at the owner’s request for an agreed period of time, without being legally liable for any actions taken after said firearm is returned. 

“Firearms safety is a bi-partisan issue because of its direct connection to suicide risk,” noted AFSP Tennesse Chapter Volunteer Advocate Mark Patterson. “In Tennessee, our AFSP Chapter is working with Democratic and Republican legislators to pass voluntary ‘do not sell’ and temporary ‘safe storage’ bills that will enable and facilitate separating those in crisis from lethal firearms. This legislation could immediately impact and save the lives of many Tennesseans."

Other policy priorities for State Capitol Day advocacy include:

  • Requiring suicide prevention training, education, and policies in K-12 schools
  • Expanding the mental health workforce and requiring training for more health providers in suicide assessment, treatment, and management
  • Requiring insurance plans to cover mental health and physical health equally
  • Supporting Veteran and service member suicide prevention and mental health programs
  • Opposing restrictions on access to gender-affirming healthcare and on discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools 
  • Increasing suicide prevention and mental health resource availability on college campuses

To find a State Capitol Day event in your state visit AFSP’s Chapter Program Calendar

To learn more about the bills AFSP supports in your state, visit

Become an AFSP Volunteer Advocate.


The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, including those who have experienced a loss. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through public education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, with a public policy office in Washington, DC, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico, with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and TikTok.

Please fill out this press request form with media inquiries.