HHS Secretary: 988 Transition Moves Us Closer to Better Serving the Crisis Care Needs of People Across America
Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to fund $150 million for 988 Lifeline, including $35 million announced today to better link 988 Lifeline services to Tribal communities
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is releasing new data that shows that over the first month of the transition to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (988 Lifeline) there has been a 45% increase in overall volume and a substantial improvement in answer rates and wait times compared to August 2021. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra applauded the progress that has been made thanks to historic funding from the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress and collaboration among the federal, state/territory, and local governments across the country. The Biden-Harris Administration has increased federal funding in the 988 Lifeline 18-fold in FY22, compared with FY21.
To build on this progress, HHS, through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is also announcing a new $35 million grant opportunity to better support 988 Lifeline services in tribal communities, which face unique challenges to accessing technology and crisis services. This funding will result in more trained crisis counselors being able to connect with even more people in need.
The grant is part of the $150 million allocated for the 988 Lifeline under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed by President Joe Biden on June 25. This investment builds upon the $432 million already provided by the Biden-Harris Administration to support the 988 transition, which includes $105 million in grant funding to states and territories, provided by the American Rescue Plan, to improve response rates, increase capacity to meet future demand, and ensure calls initiated in their states or territories are first routed to local, regional, or state crisis call centers. Prior to this historic investment, the Lifeline, which has existed since 2005, had been long unfunded and under-resourced.
“Our nation’s transition to 988 moves us closer to better serving the crisis care needs of people across America,” said HHS Secretary Becerra, who has been meeting with states across the country as part of HHS’ National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health. “988 is more than a number, it’s a message: we’re there for you. The transition to 988 is just the beginning. We will continue working towards comprehensive, responsive crisis care services nationwide to save lives.”
On July 16, the U.S. transitioned to 988, an easy-to-remember, three-digit number for reaching the 988 Lifeline (formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).
988 Lifeline data for August 2022, the first full month of performance data, showed a 45% increase in overall volume compared to August 2021 – even as answer rates and waiting times meaningfully improved – an outcome that wouldn’t have been possible without historic funding from the Biden-Harris Administration and Congress and collaboration among the federal, state/territory and local governments across the country.
In August 2022, the 988 Lifeline answered 152,000 more contacts (calls, chats and texts) compared to August 2021 and significantly improved how quickly contacts were answered. The average speed to answer across all contacts decreased from 2.5 minutes to 42 seconds.
“We want everyone to know that there is hope. Whether you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, a mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, there is compassionate, accessible care and support,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and leader of the SAMHSA Dr. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D. “With rising levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses – and the devastating number of overdose deaths – it is crucial that people have somewhere to turn when they’re in crisis.”
SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported the negative impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Americans’ well-being. The NSDUH also estimated that 4.9% of adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.3% made a suicide plan and 0.5% attempted suicide in the past year. Among adolescents ages 12-17, 12% said they had serious thoughts of suicide, 5.3% made a suicide plan, and 2.5% percent attempted suicide in the past year.
Throughout the month of September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month, HHS will award $25.3 million in suicide prevention grants – of which $3.7 million comes from American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding intended to address pandemic-related stressors that have increased mental health disorders among younger Americans.
The $25.3 million in grant funding includes:
- $9 million in Cooperative Agreements for Innovative Crisis Response Partnerships grants for states, territories, tribes and public or private nonprofit entities to create or enhance existing mobile crisis response teams that can respond mental health crisis in lieu of law enforcement or emergency medical responders.
- $7.3 million ($3.6 million from ARP and $3.7 million from annual appropriation) in Cooperative Agreements for the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention Program to support implementation of youth suicide prevention and early intervention strategies in schools, institutions of higher education, juvenile justice systems, substance use and mental health programs, foster care systems, and other child and youth-serving organizations.
- $2.2 million ($2.1 million annual appropriation and $102,000 ARP) for the GLS Campus Suicide Prevention Grant Program to support a comprehensive public health and evidence-based approach that: enhances mental health services for all college students, including those at risk for suicide, depression, serious mental illness (SMI)/serious emotional disturbances (SED), and/or substance use disorders that can lead to school failure; prevents and reduces suicide, and mental and substance use disorders; promotes help-seeking behavior; and improves the identification and treatment of at-risk college students so they can successfully complete their studies.
- $6.8 million for Cooperative Agreements for School Based Trauma-Informed Support Services and Mental Health Care for Children and Youth to increase student access to evidence-based and culturally relevant trauma support services and mental health care by developing innovative initiatives, activities, and programs to link local school systems with local trauma-informed support and mental health systems, including those under the Indian Health Service. With this program, SAMHSA aims to further enhance and improve trauma-informed support and mental health services for children and youth.
The U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10-14 and 25-34. From April 2020 to April 2021, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. Studies have shown that after speaking with a trained crisis counselor, most 988 Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed and more hopeful.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.
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