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Bolstering the Mental Health Crisis Response System

Washington DC – In 2019, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among young people and, since 2005, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has received over 20 million calls. Currently, to reach the lifeline, those in crisis must remember—or possibly even search for—the 10-digit number to dial before speaking to someone. Beginning July 16, 2022, however, individuals in need of suicide and other crisis services will only need to remember a new three-digit number: 988.

Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Project released a new report, Answering the Call: 988: A New Vision for Crisis Response. The report, put together with the support of Helmsley Charitable Trust, not only looks ahead to the activation of the 988 suicide and crisis hotline but also details bipartisan improvements that can be made to build and strengthen state and local crisis response continuums.

The recommendations include:

  • Enhance federal support for crisis response implementation and utilization;
  • Support and expand the crisis response workforce; and
  • Ensure sustainable financing and coverage for the crisis response continuum.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly one out of every five Americans struggled with anxiety or depression—and, in many cases, both. These numbers only surged during the pandemic,” said Kendall Strong, senior policy analyst for BPC’s Health Project. “That is why the creation and implementation of a new mental health crisis lifeline number—988—is so exciting. It represents a truly historic opportunity to connect struggling Americans to the appropriate and effective support and resources they need.”

As the report concludes: “With the right coordination, training, and financial support, all these systems can and should work in tandem to ensure that Americans receive timely and effective services in their time of need.”

Read the full report

BPC will host an event this morning to discuss the federal preparations for the switchover to 988 and the benefits of strengthening the existing emergency infrastructure. Watch online.