Less than a year before ‘988’ suicide help number is activated, some states may not be ready

Less than a year before ‘988’ suicide help number is activated, some states may not be ready
Posted on Oct 26 2021
Capital News Service

A new three-digit phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, set to launch next July, is expected to increase the use of mental health crisis services as access becomes easier. But advocacy organizations worry some states may not have the funding or capacity to support increased use of the “988” hotline and its related programs. “This kind of crisis infrastructure is going to take a lot of communities some time to develop, but they need to get started now,” said Angela Kimball, national director of government relations, policy and advocacy at NAMI. “The real fear though, is that if people call 988 and expect a mental health response, we want them to get a mental health response,” Kimball said. Kimball explained that police calls to mental health emergencies have sometimes led to arrests, inappropriate uses of ERs, as well as deaths. “That kind of trauma and tragedy is the last thing that we need,” Kimball said. “There is a subset of people, about three in 10, for whom the phone call isn’t going to be enough,” Kimball explained. There needs to be available mental health services to address the need for care after someone calls.