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American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Celebrates 15 Years of Advocacy, Calls on Congress to Strengthen 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

June 5, 2024 – 5 min read


Crowd gathered in front of US capitol building

WASHINGTON — (June 5, 2024), The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is hosting its 15th Annual Advocacy Forum from June 9 to 12, 2024, in Washington, D.C. Nearly 250 Volunteer Advocates from across the country will gather at the nation’s capital to call on Congress to prioritize lifesaving suicide prevention and mental health policies. On June 11, Advocates will meet with over 250 Congressional offices to share their personal stories and urge them to co-sponsor and support vital legislation for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and the full continuum of crisis care. AFSP will also honor members of Congress and their staff who have been critical and leading champions in the efforts to support the 988 Lifeline and suicide prevention. 

Preventing suicide is an urgent public health matter. In 2022, 49,476 people died by suicide, making it the 11th leading cause of death in the country. AFSP and its network of Volunteer Advocates are meeting this moment by focusing on legislation supporting the 988 Lifeline, which provides behavioral health support to people who experience or want to support someone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, across the United States. After enacting the three-digit dialing code in July 2022, the 988 Lifeline received nearly four million contacts during its first year in use, which was a 33 percent increase from the year before. It is an intervention proven to save lives. 

“AFSP Volunteer Advocates have seen many wins over the past 15 years of our advocacy movement, including the establishment of the three-digit dialing code for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline securing millions in funding for research at the National Institutes of Mental Health and funding for comprehensive suicide prevention programming at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said AFSP Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Laurel Stine. “We all have a role to play in preventing suicide, and our Advocates are proof that every call, letter, email, meeting and story shared makes a difference.” 

988 Legislation 

During meetings with members of Congress and their staff, AFSP Volunteer Advocates will call for support on legislation that will increase awareness, local response rates and wraparound services for the 988 Lifeline. This legislation includes: 

  • Improving Mental Health Access for Students Act (S.1236/H.R.2802): This Act will require colleges and universities to provide contact information for the 988 Lifeline on student ID cards, or if not, then issued via websites/student portals. In the U.S., 82% of people are not familiar with 988. Making it easy for students to find and share the 988 number will improve access to lifesaving crisis resources and destigmatize reaching out for help. 
  • Local 988 Response Act (S.3444/H.R.4974): This will require carriers to route wireless calls and texts based on the proximity of an individual to a contact center rather than on the area code while protecting a caller’s privacy. The bill also requires that multi-line systems support the direct dialing of 988, rather than requiring a caller to dial another number first. 988 is about more than answering calls. It’s also about connecting people to local services, support and resources at critical moments making this bill essential. 
  • CONNECT Act (H.R.6928): To authorize $30 million for a new federal grant program to help eligible 988 contact centers provide follow-up services to individuals who received suicide prevention and crisis services. Follow-up services such as check-in calls and collaboration with loved ones can be critical to helping people in crisis; 80% of surveyed crisis line callers reported that follow-up services helped save their lives. 

“It's inspiring to work together with advocates from all over the country at the AFSP Forum. By speaking to legislators about important policies that will address mental health and suicide, I can truly be the voice for suicide prevention,” said Wyoming Volunteer Advocate Donna Birkholz. “I have lost friends and family to suicide, but also have friends and family who got help and survived. 988 is a crucial tool for helping more people find the support they need, when they need it.”  


Forum attendees will learn strategies to impact legislation and hear from experts on the 988 Lifeline and continuum of crisis care working to expand 988 nationally and at the state level including: 

  • Saanvi Arora, Executive Director, Youth Power Project  
  • Jim Brewer, Director of Government Affairs, North America’s Building Trades Unions  
  • Tia Dole, Ph.D., Chief 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Officer, Vibrant Emotional Health 
  • Aaron Fritschner, Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Communications, Office of U.S. Representative Don Beyer (VA-8) 
  • Stephanie Grosser, Technology Lead, 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline & Behavioral Health Crisis Team, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 
  • Laura Herrera Scott, MD, Secretary for Behavioral Health, Behavioral Health Administration, Maryland Department of Health 
  • Monica Johnson, M.A., LPC, Director of the 988 & Behavioral Health Crisis Coordinating Office, SAMHSA 
  • Hannah Wesolowski, Chief Advocacy Officer, NAMI National 

Keynote presentations will be given by: 

  • U.S. Representative Don Beyer (VA-8) 
  • Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, Founder of the Kennedy Forum  

Video remarks will be provided by: 

  • U.S. Representative Robert B. Aderholt (AL-4) 
  • U.S. Representative Don Bacon (NE-2) 
  • U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI) 
  • U.S. Representative Mike Bost (IL-12) 
  • U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (CA) 
  • U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (NC)  

Honoring 988 Champions  

This year, AFSP will bring back the Allies in Action Awards Program. Awards will be presented on Tuesday, June 11 on Capitol Hill to members of Congress and their staff who have been champions and critical in the efforts to support the 988 Lifeline and suicide prevention.  

Honorees will include:   

Members of Congress: 

  • U.S. Representative Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) 
  • U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) 
  • U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (CA)  
  • U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (NC) 

Congressional Staff: 

  • Jacqueline Baggett, Office of Rep. Fitzpatrick (PA-1) 
  • John Chambliss, Office of Sen. Padilla (CA) 
  • Joseph Ciccone, Office of Rep. Napolitano (CA-31) 
  • Garrett Daniel, Office of Sen. Tillis (NC) 
  • Gray Rixey, Office of Sen. Tillis (NC) 

Attendance at the Forum is by invitation only; however, AFSP also hosts a Virtual Advocacy Forum open to the public. It will begin at noon ET on Tuesday, June 11, on AFSP’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Everyone can support AFSP’s legislative priorities and contact their members of Congress through the AFSP Action Center—every voice makes a difference! 

For a full agenda and list of speakers visit the 2024 Advocacy Forum webpage. To learn more about AFSP’s support of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline visit  


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, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states, D.C. 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.    

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