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Bill dedicated to funding suicide hotline trust fund killed but hotline may still get money

A green, black, and white flyer depicting information on the 988 hotline
Kamila Kudelska
/
Wyoming Public Media

Wyoming’s988 suicide lifeline funding bill is dead, but there’s still a chance that it could get the funding advocates are hoping for before the session ends.

The bill that would’ve funded the suicide hotline with $40 million passed its two first readings in the house but died Friday when the house ran out of time to consider legislation.

However, an amendment written into the house budget could still provide the necessary funding. But Andi Summerville, the executive director of the Wyoming Association of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, said the Senate didn’t pass a similar amendment in their budget.

“That represents a more complicated budget process, when one chamber does something and the other doesn't do something exactly the same,” said Summerville. “So we're going to be in a state of watching and waiting to see how the budget comes out through a conference committee.”

Two suicide hotline call centers opened in Wyoming in 2020. Comparing 2022 to 2023, calls to the centers have increased by 62 percent. Summerville said 20 percent of those have been from veterans.

“They always have the option to be transferred to the National Veterans piece of the 988 line,” she said. “A lot of our Wyoming veterans are asking to not be transferred, that they want to talk to the Wyoming people.”

She said that's one of the reasons it’s important that these Wyoming call centers stay open.

“We are starting to see a decline in our state rankings and suicide per capita. That's exciting,” said Summerville. She’s referring to Wyoming having the nation’s highest suicide rate per capita since 2017. But WyoFile reported in late 2023 that early estimates show Montana and Alaska are on top of the list now.

“There's a lot of good discussions about all the good things that the hotline does. But there certainly seems to be some hesitation to fully fund it still.”

The house budget amendment was sponsored by Rep. Cyrus Western (R-Big Horn) and it would backfill whatever money was stripped out of the 988 bill. Since that original bill has died, this amendment would put $40 million back into the trust fund.

Again, the senate did not introduce a similar amendment to its budget, which means the discrepancy between the two budgets will be negotiated in the joint conference committee, which starts this week. That panel will decide whether the hotline will get any funding.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. She has won a regional Murrow award for her reporting on mental health and firearm owners. During her time leading the Wyoming Public Media newsroom, reporters have won multiple PMJA, Murrow and Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism Awards. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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