988 Lifeline saw a 45 percent increase after adopting three-digit number
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the bipartisan 988 Coordination and Improvement Act to ensure that the three-digit National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline call centers have the resources to respond to calls and give Americans the specialized care they need. The bipartisan legislation comes amid a spike in use of the three-digit hotline that launched in July, with a 45 percent increase in calls in August 2022 compared to August 2021. The 988 Coordination and Improvement Act would help coordinate the work of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when it comes to providing behavioral health crisis care, promoting access to specialized services for high-risk populations, and allowing for appropriate oversight of the 988 Lifeline.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States. 988 has already allowed thousands of individuals of all ages who are experiencing a crisis—whether that is thoughts of suicide, a mental health concern or substance use issue, or any other kind of emotional distress—to get help for themselves or a loved one by connecting them with a trained crisis counselor.
“When Americans experiencing a mental health crisis and in need of emotional support reach out for help, it is vital that we make sure someone is there to listen, provide resources, and send assistance immediately if needed,” said Senator Collins. “The 988 Lifeline is an invaluable tool that has saved countless lives. By improving coordination, enhancing oversight, and expanding access to services for high-risk populations, our legislation would strengthen the hotline to ensure that more Americans can receive timely, effective assistance.”
“Mental health crises and suicide impact
every community across the country and the 988 Lifeline is already showing promise in reaching more Americans who are suffering,” said Senator Baldwin. “After working to get my bipartisan legislation signed into law and launched, this legislation will strengthen the 988 Lifeline and help ensure the call centers have the support needed to give people the timely care and services they want and need.”
The 988 Coordination and Improvement Act would:
- Establish an office to coordinate work relating to behavioral health crisis care across HHS: The office, within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will convene Federal, State, Tribal, local and private partners, as well as launch and manage Federal workgroups charged with making recommendations regarding behavioral health crisis issues. Further, the coordinating office will assist States, local governmental entities, territories, Indian Tribes, and Tribal communities in developing crisis care systems and establishing nationwide best practices, with the goal of expanding capacity of and access to local 988 call centers, mobile crisis care, crisis stabilization, psychiatric emergency services, rapid post-crisis follow-up care, and essential community services. The office would be funded at $10 million per year from FY23 through FY27.
- Ensure that the 988 Lifeline supports access to specialized services for populations at higher risk of experiencing a behavioral health crisis, including members of the LGBTQ+ community and racial and ethnic minorities: Efforts to support access to specialized services may include updates and development of training resources; adapting program network membership processes to incorporate organizations that provide specialized services for high-risk populations; designing and implementing transfer processes; and providing additional technical assistance to centers.
- Provide additional transparency and oversight into the implementation of 988: The Secretary of HHS will submit a report to Congress assessing the progress of HHS in implementation of 988, including an assessment of its performance, any efforts to provide specialized services to high-risk populations, state and regional variation access to crisis call centers, the capacity of the lifeline to handle texts and chats, any needed programmatic or technological advancements, and obstacles in collecting and distributing fees authorized by the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020.
The 988 Coordination and Improvement Act is supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Trevor Project, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Vibrant Emotional Health, and Black Space.
A summary of the legislation is available here.
Full text of the legislation is available here.
An online version of this release is available here.