SALT LAKE CITY — A bill requiring all Utah suicide hotlines to be available or capable of rolling over to other lines at all times was approved by the Senate on Tuesday for a third reading.
HB41 passed its second reading by a 27-0 vote, and its third reading is now tabled until later in the legislative session when state lawmakers consider which bills to prioritize funding for. The measure also requests $2.3 million in ongoing funding for Utah crisis lines.
HB41's sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, has called it "Hannah's Bill," so-named after Hannah Warburton, a Weber High School student who took her own life in 2014 a short time after a phone call she made to her psychologist went unanswered.
Eliason told the House of Representatives last month that having crisis lines available for 24 hours per day and 365 days a year ought to be considered on par with the importance of having 911 service constantly accessible. The House at the time approved the measure 73-0.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, the bill's floor sponsor, told the Senate on Tuesday that the measure is "one of the most important pieces of legislation that I will ever carry," calling it "the quantum leap we have been looking for in (crisis) services" in Utah.
"This has been a very long and painful road to get here. The fact of the matter is, suicide is the leading cause of death for Utahns between the ages of 10 and 24," Thatcher said.
He contended that the state Legislature in recent years was much less enthusiastic about throwing its weight behind such crisis hotline legislation.
"Things are finally changing. People are finally willing to stand up and talk about the issue," Thatcher said.
HB41 also requires that each of the 20 crisis phone lines in the state "ensure that each individual who answers calls … is a mental health therapist or a crisis worker."Comment on this story
Also Tuesday, HB42, a bill seeking a Medicaid waiver to allow counties to use the federal program to enact their own mobile crisis outreach teams, passed its second reading in the Senate. The measure was approved to advance to a third reading by a 27-1 tally, with Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, being the lone dissenting vote.
Thatcher, HB42's floor sponsor, has told fellow lawmakers this session that the measure ultimately makes it possible for "the mental health equivalent of a paramedic" to respond to behavioral health crises.
"We are very excited to have Utah pioneer this issue," he said last month.
HB42 has already passed the House, getting a 72-0 vote there in January.