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FCC approves new three digit suicide hot line

Shorter number will increase access
Posted at 6:09 PM, Dec 13, 2019

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — With suicides on the rise across the United States, the FCC has approved plans to set up a three-digit nationwide suicide hot line number.

The new number is designed to make easier for those seeking immediate life-saving help.

7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley finds out how this will how this will have a local impact.

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Crisis Services in Buffalo.

“That when somebody has beginning thoughts of suicide and they actually - they will take to attempt taking their life is literally about a ten minute period,” said Jessica Pirro, CEO, Crisis Services.

Pirro has been part of the conversation about shorting the national suicide hot line number.

The FCC approved the proposal Thursday to create a new 9-8-8 number modeled after 9-1-1.

At Crisis Services a hot line number is in place and shorten the number could be imperative for those in need.

“All the calls from Western New York that come in through that national line are actually answered here at crisis services,” described Pirro.

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Inside Crisis Services hot line center

Pirro says shorting the national suicide number will improve access that could be lifesaving.

Suicide hit very close to home for Joe Avino. He lost his long-time friend Matthew Benedict. They graduated in 2011 from Nichols School where they played hockey.

“I think accessibility is crucial and it comes down to a matter of minutes sometimes and if its three numbers versus nine - then that could make a huge difference,” Avio remarked.

Friday night at the Nichols Ice Rink Avino and two other friends of Benedict created a hockey game to benefit the 'One Last Goal' Foundation created in Benedicts honor.

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Inside the Nichols Ice Rink in Buffalo Joe Avino, Jake Zimmer & Charlie Stein look out onto the ice remembering their friend who died by suicide.

"I know that everyone misses him dearly – yeah it's been a tough time,” said Jake Zimmer, long-time friend.

Zimmer says Friday night they hit the ice to raise money to help for students and athletes who struggle with mental illness.

Benedict, a University at Buffalo law student, died by suicide last summer.

Friends say they were aware of his struggles, but never knew how bad he was hurting.

“You could be walking out side and pass anyone and they could seem happy as a clam, but you really never know what's going on inside,” said Charlie Stein, long-time friend.

The 9-8-8 number is not operation as crisis centers across the country prepare for the change, because unfortunately it's expected to generate more calls.

“Crisis centers across the country are having a lot of discussions about this to see how we can be prepared for this,” Pirro said.

Pirro noted, while suicide numbers are rising across the U.S., New York State is experiencing some lower numbers. She also remarked that there was a slight decrease in 2018 in Erie County.

If you, a loved one or friend is experience difficulty, contact Crisis Services at 716-834-3131 and the National Suicide hot line number is 1-800-273-8255