Funded by the American Rescue Plan, these investments will bolster our crisis care infrastructure
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is awarding nearly $105 million in grant funding, provided by the American Rescue Plan, to 54 states and territories in advance of the transition of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from the current 10-digit number to the 988 three-digit dialing code in July. Strengthening our crisis care infrastructure is a core priority of President Biden’s Mental Health Strategy, which he announced at the State of the Union as part of his national Unity Agenda. Improving 988 readiness and responsiveness is a critical step to realizing this objective.
States and territories are expected to use the funds 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. Award recipients may also use the funds to build the workforce necessary for enhancing local text and chat response. These grants along with other recent funding from the administration, represent a 40-fold increase in federal support of the Lifeline over the past four years. With states at varying degrees of operational readiness, the success of 988 now rests heavily on the willingness of state, territorial and local leaders to make additional investments in shoring up the crisis care continuum.
“Providing states and territories with the support to prevent suicide by assisting people in crisis is critical to our nation’s health,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “It is imperative that states and territories partner closely with HHS to ensure the highest level of 988 contact response.”
“Preparing for the transition to 988 is a top priority for SAMHSA,” said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. “Not only will we continue working with our federal and national stakeholders to achieve a smooth transition, but these grants demonstrate that states and territories are also critical partners in this effort.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States had one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for ages 10-14 and 25-34.
SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data show 4.9 percent of adults 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 0.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among adolescents 12 to 17, 12 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 5.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 2.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. The findings vary by race and ethnicity, with people of mixed ethnicity reporting higher rates of serious thoughts of suicide.
In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to be operated through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. As the country transitions to this easy-to-remember, three-digit number, SAMHSA is focused on efforts to strengthen and expand the existing Lifeline network—providing the public with easier access to lifesaving services. The Lifeline currently helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day. The 988 dialing code will be available nationally for call, text, or chat beginning on July 16, 2022.
In addition to the support provided through this funding, SAMHSA is also convening national partners to help advance 988 planning efforts at the state and local levels. These national-level meetings have brought together states, territories, and tribes; crisis contact centers; public safety answering points; and behavioral health providers to exchange resources and best practices for facilitating the 988 transition. As part of these efforts, SAMHSA has also collaborated with national partners to create playbooks and other guidance documents to assess and improve the operational readiness of these critical groups to support implementation of 988.
To drive unified national communication about 988, SAMHSA is adding more communication materials and products to its 988 Partner Toolkit, including logo and brand guidelines, radio PSA scripts, and a sample e-newsletter. As the transition to 988 in July approaches, SAMHSA will add more 988 tools and resources, like short, shareable videos and sample social media posts to support partner communication planning efforts. These are available on the SAMHSA 988 web page.
Until the formal launch of 988 in July 2022, anyone in mental health crisis or emotional distress should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). People not in crisis who are seeking treatment options for mental health conditions should visit findtreatment.samhsa.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
This announcement is part of an HHS-wide initiative to tackle the nation’s mental health crisis and is being lifted up as part of HHS’s National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health. Following President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address on March 1, 2022, Secretary Xavier Becerra kicked off the National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health to hear directly from Americans across the country about the behavioral health challenges they are facing and engage with local leaders on innovative ways to strengthen the mental health and crisis care system in our communities. More information on the National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health is available at HHS.gov/HHSTour.