On March 17, a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced the introduction of the 988 Implementation Act.
The new three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, goes live on July 16, 2022. The new dialing code will not immediately replace the current lifeline number – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – but will offer callers a more convenient and easier to remember option.
While adopting 988 is a momentous step toward improving access to rapid and lifesaving mental health and substance use care, it will require significant investment and coordination over the coming years to realize and fulfill its potential.
“Adopting 988 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a transformative moment for America. It is a promise that anyone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis will be quickly connected to high-quality care in their community,” said Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
“To fulfill this promise, we need to bolster the capacity and coordination capabilities of our crisis care system in a comprehensive and sustainable way. By expanding community-based mental health and substance use treatment services, and dedicating resources for regional and local call centers and mobile crisis response programs, this bill will help ensure the right infrastructure is in place so anyone who is in need of care and dials 988 has someone to talk to, someone to come to them and somewhere to go.”
The bill would also expand the existing 10-state Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Medicaid demonstration program to allow any state the opportunity to apply to participate. Long championed by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA-6), a co-sponsor of the 988 Implementation Act, CCBHCs will assist states and communities expand access to high-quality mental health crisis care while streamlining local crisis response services.
“Expanding access to lifesaving mental health and substance use crisis care will take more than a new number – 988 can only save lives if there is a strong, community-based crisis care system in place to support it,” continued Ingoglia. “CCBHCs serve as efficient centralized crisis care hubs, providing 24-hour crisis response, including mobile crisis teams, emergency crisis intervention services and crisis stabilization. They also provide extensive post-crisis treatment and follow-up, including coordination with other care settings to continue providing treatment so people aren’t left to fend for themselves after their immediate crisis is over. Expanding CCBHCs will give all states the ability to take advantage of the CCBHC model to build a better mental health and substance use treatment infrastructure in every community.
“This bill couldn’t come at a more important time, as 9-8-8 goes live in a few short months, and our nation continues to grapple with overdose and mental health crises. We thank Rep. Cárdenas and the cosponsors of the 9-8-8 Implementation Act for their leadership and urgency in prioritizing resources and support to make sure that anyone dialing 988 gets a swift, safe and comprehensive response.”
About The National Council
Founded in 1969, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing is a membership organization that drives policy and social change on behalf of over 3,300 mental health and substance use treatment organizations and the more than 10 million children, adults and families they serve. We advocate for policies to ensure equitable access to high-quality services. We build the capacity of mental health and substance use treatment organizations. And we promote greater understanding of mental wellbeing as a core component of comprehensive health and health care. Through our Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program, we have trained more than 3 million people in the U.S. to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.