NAMI Leads 40+ National Organizations to Urge Immediate Improvements to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline | NAMI

NAMI Leads 40+ National Organizations to Urge Immediate Improvements to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

Posted on March 21, 2024

NAMI applauds the FCC for taking steps to ensure 988 help seekers get connected to their local call centers

Arlington, VA — Yesterday, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) led a group of over 40 national organizations in urging leadership at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take immediate action to improve the routing of 988 calls so that people in a mental health crisis are connected to critical care available in their own local communities.

Today, HHS Secretary Becerra, Senators Padilla, Tillis, Cárdenas and FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced that the FCC will start their process of improving 988 by routing calls based on callers' physical location rather than their phone number's area code.

Since the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline became available nationwide in 2022, more than 8.6 million people in crisis have been able to connect with support for mental health, substance use and suicide crises, saving countless lives. Yet because calls to 988 are currently routed to 988 call centers based on a caller’s area code and not their physical location, 988 is limited in its ability to help all callers in crisis access local resources, especially considering today’s increasingly cell phone dependent society.

“Today, if someone calls 988, they will connect with a trained crisis counselor who can help them. However, people are traveling around the country with their phones, so the counselor answering the call may be across the country and not in someone’s current location,” said Hannah Wesolowski, NAMI’s Chief Advocacy Officer. “988 will not reach its full potential unless every help seeker is able to get immediate help and be connected with resources available where they are.”

There are existing technology solutions available that would help improve the Lifeline’s impact to address immediate mental health crises and connect those in need to the local care they need to get well and stay well after a crisis. 

While there are bipartisan legislative proposals in both the House and Senate to explicitly require better routing for 988 calls, called georouting, this letter implored the FCC and HHS to take immediate, decisive action. Tragically, time is not on the side of people seeking help during a time of crisis. In 2022, nearly 50,000 Americans died by suicide, and nearly a quarter of high school age children reported having thoughts of suicide.

"We are talking about life and death,” said Wesolowski. “Policies and workable solutions exist. We are hopeful that the FCC will move quickly to make this significant improvement to this critical service a reality."

We must do better – now. 

NAMI has urged advocates to contact elected officials to take action on this legislation (here).

See a full copy of the letter here.


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NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).