ANNAPOLIS, Md. – On July 16th, every state in America will have a new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number put in place to help people dealing with a mental health crisis. The number, 988, is essentially intended to be the mental health equivalent to 911.
“988 is one of the biggest things that has happened in the mental health system in a long, long time.”, stated Christine Michaels of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the implementation of 988 is “not optional”, all states are required to make the transition to the 988 hotline service.
A question that most states seem to have is how to fund the transition, how to handle staffing and response teams for the job, and how to hire people to answer the phones and handle other important things. In other words, over half the country’s state legislatures are not prepared for the rollout of 988.
Thus far, only 13 states have passed laws to fund the new hotline, a statistic that has many mental health officials absolutely baffled. It has many of them deeply concerned that states will not be able to handle the pressure when the hotline launches in a month.
The State Legislature in Maryland passed the 988 Trust Fund and it was granted the approval of Governor Hogan on April 21st. This bill will establish a trust fund to support the 988 hotline, as well as allocate $5 million to local mental health hotlines.