By Trey Delida
A new three-digit hotline will be available to individuals dealing with mental health crises nationwide starting July 16. Users who text or call the emergency number, 988, will be connected to the National Suicide Hotline.
In 2020 alone, nearly 46,000 people died from suicide according to statistics from the CDC. Suicide is now ranked as the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. overall and is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. As cases of mental health conditions rise and the search for solutions continues, specialists around the nation are calling it a national mental health crisis.
Experts hope that the inclusion of 988, what some are dubbing the mental health equivalent of 911, will successfully prevent more people from dying due to mental health concerns. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number has been wildly successful since its launch in 2005, receiving over 20 million calls since its inception. Studies suggest that call centers are effective in reducing feelings of depression and suicidal ideation.
The federal government mandated the new hotline, but states are responsible for funding it. So far, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington have passed legislation to fund the project.
Virginia was the first state to pass legislation for the 988 service in 2021. Gov. Ralph Northman signed SB 1302, which designates a statewide call center, establishes a crisis call center fund and includes a monthly telecom tax, covering the 988 service fees that states are responsible for funding. States like Nebraska, Alabama, Texas, Oregon and New York passed legislation that does not add user fees, but instead created exploratory commissions to lead the charge.
Call centers everywhere are looking for people to apply or volunteer to assist with the steady influx of calls. To find open opportunities in your state or territory, please visit samhsa.gov/find-help/988/jobs.
As a resource for state leaders, CSG is dedicated to finding solutions through policy. The CSG Healthy States National Task Force works to address several areas of physical, mental and social health. The Human Health subcommittee, with committee members from across the nation, focuses specifically on mental health through policies that support a healthy populace.