988 is the New Crisis Hotline for Mental Health Emergencies

988 is the New Crisis Hotline for Mental Health Emergencies

People struggling with mental health issues can now reach out for help by calling or texting 9-8-8, launched last July 16, 2022. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Line is a three-digit number that will connect people experiencing a mental health crisis to licensed mental health professionals.

Everything You Need to Know About 988

During a recent briefing, Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra noted that people could call 988 if they require immediate help. He said that the number would help them connect with mental health and medical professionals that can provide them with the appropriate support they need. The primary goal of the new phone number is to make it easier to call for help concerning mental health illnesses. Proponents of the initiative, such as mental health advocates and members of Congress, believe that it will help transform the way mental health care is delivered in the country. The Biden administration has also invested over $400 million in various mental health facilities to support the system.

The Correlation Between Individuals Experiencing Mental Health Crises and Law Enforcement

Individuals in America who experience mental health emergencies tend to dial 911 for help. Unfortunately, despite the importance of mental health services, 911 wasn’t designed to address the needs of people with mental health issues. As a result, they often end up in a rushed emergency room or interacting with law enforcers. According to Benjamin Miller, a psychologist and president of Well Being Trust, most law enforcers’ time is spent responding to and transporting people experiencing mental health crises. He noted that about 20% of the officers’ total time is spent responding to calls related to mental health issues. Over two million people with severe mental health issues were arrested last year. Also, over a quarter of fatal police shootings reportedly involved people with mental health issues in the past couple of years. The goal of the 988 initiative is to reduce the number of confrontations between law enforcers and people with mental health issues. It’s also part of a larger effort to expand the availability of mental health emergency response teams.

The Initiative has been in the Works for Quite Sometime Now

For a couple of years, the idea of establishing a dedicated phone number for people with mental health issues has been in the works. In 2020, President Trump signed a bill that created the number as part of a larger effort to address the issue of mental health crises. The 988 number will allow people to connect to a network of over 200 crisis call centers across the country. Although the national suicide prevention hotline’s 10-digit number will still be active, calls to the new number will be routed to 988 instead. Trained counselors will be available to help people who call or text the number. If a crisis center cannot immediately respond to a call, the call will be routed to a backup center.

Several states have also started building emergency mental health services facilities to accommodate people who call 988. These facilities will be able to provide 24-hour access to mental health care. According to a senior official from the Department of Health and Human Services, the goal of the 988 initiative is to eventually have additional crisis services in communities across the country. The Biden administration has additionally allocated over $432 million to expand the capacity of the call centers and provide other related services. These include a subnetwork for Spanish speakers. In 2020, a law was also passed that allowed states to pass legislation to impose a small fee on cellphone bills to support mental health services. But, out of the four states that have enacted this approach, only two have the necessary legislation in the works.

Implementing the 988 number has allowed communities to rethink how they deliver mental health services. According to Colleen Carr, the director of the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the initiative has the potential to transform how crisis services are delivered in the country.

Since the initiative only launched last July 16, it will take some time for it to be widely known and used by American citizens. But, it is fantastic news that the government is working towards solutions geared toward individuals needing mental help. This new hotline can support people who could be a danger to themselves and others and reduce the number of deadly incidents that happen around our country.

If you’re interested to learn more about the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s new hotline number, here’s the frequently asked question page of 988.

SimpleVoIP is a big advocate for mental health and will start offering direct routing to 988 for our clients to ensure their health and safety, whether working remotely, in hybrid, or on-location. If you have any questions about SimpleVoIP, reach out to us, and we’ll be more than happy to answer all your inquiries.