Philadelphia Crisis Lifeline Center Roundtable
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you and good morning, everyone.
It’s great to be here in Philadelphia to mark the official transition of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the three-digit number mental health crisis care hotline, 9-8-8.
Let me begin by thanking a few folks who have helped make today possible:
- Veterans Affair Secretary Dennis McDonough
- FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel
- The Consortium CEO John White
- Lt. Governor John Fetterman
- Mayor Jim Kenny
- Philadelphia Behavioral Health Commissioner Dr. Jill Bowen; and
- Congressman Dwight Evans (D-PA-03)
Thank you all for your service and leadership.
We’re all here today for one particular reason: 988.
But…for a moment…let me zoom out so we can recognize what a pandemic has made impossible to miss:
Too many of us are experiencing suicidal crisis or mental health distress without the support and care we need.
Too many of us as parents are worried about our children’s mental well-being but feel we have nowhere to turn.
Too many of our families have been devastated by a record-breaking overdose epidemic.
From Arkansas to Vermont, Oregon to Pennsylvania, Americans are searching for hope…and help.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians live with a mental health condition. And for them, and all Americans, we want to give them hope…and help.
THAT’S why we’re here today.
Three digits. Easy to remember. BUT MORE THAN A NUMBER.
988 is a MESSAGE.
When you hear “911”, you think emergency and rescue.
Starting tomorrow, when you hear 988, think crisis and rescue. If you’re about to fall, reach out! We will catch you.
That's what we want for 988. If you are willing to turn to someone in your moment of crisis, we’ll be there.
….24/7 access to trained counselors who can help you if you’re experiencing suicidal, substance use or other mental health crises.
24/7, no matter who you are or where you live.
We know this transformation won’t happen overnight. But President Biden is committed to making 988 a success. He has invested more than $430 million dollars in 988 in his first 18 months in office.
That’s an 18-fold increase in 988’s budget compared to the $24 million total the year before President Biden took the reigns.
Here in Pennsylvania, HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has awarded the state more than $3 million dollars to help it strengthen and expand the capacity of its crisis centers supporting the 988 Lifeline.
The Lifeline’s ultimate success will hinge on the governors of our states, territories, and tribal governments OWNING 988.
988 is not a federal program, it is run by the states through their crisis centers. But from President Biden on down, we are committed at the federal level to support and sustain your efforts. I can prove that in more than 430 million ways.
We’ve taken the lead in standing up text and chat operations. And we have stood up Backup Call centers to help states carry the load.
And here, I want to thank Governor Wolfe and Lt Gov Fetterman for their commitment to Pennsylvanians to make 988 a success.
Lives are at stake.
Failure is not an option.
That’s what today is about. We have a lot of work ahead. But, together, with the launch of 988, we can turn hardship into hope for those we love.
Thank you. And now I’d like to introduce one of the champions of this initiative at HHS, a true leader in our fight for a healthier America: Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon.