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Could a crisis hotline number be printed on driver’s licenses?

by Minden Press-Herald

BATON ROUGE—A House committee passed a bill Tuesday that would require printing the number for a crisis hotline on the back of driver’s licenses. 

Senate Bill 34, authored by Sen. Louie Bernard, R-Natchitoches, passed its first hurdle in the House without any objection. This bill would require that “Crisis Lifeline dial 988” be printed on all state-issued driver’s licenses as well as personal identification cards. 

Bernard said a few college students had approached him about their friends committing suicide. They wanted to print the crisis number on student ID cards. From the conversation, it seemed like it would be useful on all licenses, according to Bernard. 

“When you’re in a moment of emotional crisis, there should be a place where you automatically know that number I need is on there,” Bernard said. 

Karen Stubbs from the Louisiana Department of Health said that the 988 hotline is confidential, toll-free and open 24/7. It is a national number with connections to more than 200 crisis centers. The lifeline routes calls by the caller’s area code to the nearest crisis center. 

The 988 number was established last year, and it directs callers to a hotline that has been established for nearly 20 years. 

The line is for self-defined crises. Stubbs said this is not limited to those contemplating suicide.  

Bernard said the Office of Motor Vehicles would absorb the costs of adding the text.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Louisiana had 689 suicides in 2021. Another analysis ranked Louisiana as the 11th worst state for mental health services.

“Until these things come home and happen to our families or to people that we know, we tend to put them on the side burner,” Bernard said. “But when they do come home, we realize what an opportunity we may have missed by not putting something like this on the state driver’s license.”

Sen. Louie Bernard proposed adding a crisis hotline number to the back of driver’s licenses.

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