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Arlington, VA — The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) today is calling upon policymakers at all levels to ensure the necessary resources are in place before July 16, 2022, when the three-digit number, 988, must be available for suicidal and mental health crises. 988 will serve as an alternative to calling 911 in a mental health emergency.
“Far too often, people in a mental health crisis receive an inadequate and even harmful response, which frequently involves law enforcement,” said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. “One year from today, 988 will be available across the nation for people experiencing a mental health or suicidal crisis. But to realize the promise of 988 to provide a mental health response — not a law enforcement response — to mental health crises, we need significant action by federal, state and local policymakers.
Our current response to mental health crises comes at a high cost to individuals and communities. One in four fatal police shootings involve a person with a mental illness. People with mental health conditions are booked into jails two million times each year and cycle in and out of emergency rooms and homelessness. Now, we have the opportunity — and obligation — to reimagine crisis response.”
NAMI applauds Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for making 988 a universal number for suicide prevention and mental health crises, making it easier to reach crisis services. But in the year before 988 becomes widely available, we need all levels of government to ensure that no matter when or where people call 988, there are well-trained staff to answer the call, mobile crisis teams to provide an in-person response, and crisis stabilization programs that can get people on the path to follow-up care. We must take the important opportunity 988 presents to make sure that help and hope are available on the other end of the phone — not the status quo.
To develop a reimagined 988 crisis system, we need an infusion of federal resources. NAMI is grateful that House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D–CT) and Ranking Member Tom Cole (R–OK) included significant investments in their FY 2022 proposals to help states develop and expand crisis services, including $100 million for mobile crisis team grants and $160 million for crisis services in the Mental Health Block Grant. We urge the House and Senate to ensure this, and other 988-related funding is passed by both chambers.
The recent introduction of S. 1902, the Behavioral Health Crisis Services Expansion Act, is a positive step to creating the standards and infrastructure needed to realize the crisis response system we deserve. NAMI thanks the bill’s sponsors, Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D–NV) and John Cornyn (R–TX), for their leadership and we look forward to swift passage. We also recognize the work of staff and leadership at the FCC, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and across the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Department of Justice, to support an effective 988 crisis system.
State action is needed, too. This year, a number of state legislatures passed legislation to implement and fund 988 and related crisis services, including mobile crisis teams and crisis stabilization programs. We urge all states to act without delay to adopt a crisis standard of care and use their ability to leverage phone bill monthly fees to fund needed crisis infrastructure.
A mental health crisis can happen to anyone, and no one should live in fear of the response they will receive when they call for help. The 12 months between today and July 16, 2022, will go by quickly, and there is much work ahead. We call on every policymaker to act, and act quickly, to realize the promise of 988 crisis response. A call for help should never result in a life lost and a family and community devastated.
For more information on 988, please visit our 988 page.