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New Nationwide Three Digit Mental Health Crisis Line Unveiled

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Sonora, CA – Starting tomorrow, quick help for suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies are just three digits away in the U.S.

The first nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline goes live on Saturday. It’s designed to be as easy to remember and use as 911, but instead of a dispatcher sending police, firefighters, or paramedics, 988 will connect callers with trained mental health counselors. This initiative is part of President Biden’s comprehensive strategy to address the nation’s mental health crisis.

“If we can get 988 to work like 911 … lives will be saved,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

More than $280 million has been funded by the federal government to help states create systems that will do much more, including mobile mental health crisis teams that can be sent to people’s homes and emergency mental health centers, similar to urgent care clinics that treat physical aches and pains. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a network of more than 200 state and local call centers supported by HHS through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“The change came about for a number of different reasons, but the primary one is to ease access to the Lifeline, for easier to remember code for individuals who are in crisis, to be able to access supports text,” stated John Palmieri, M.D., M.H.A., Acting Director, SAMHSA’s 988 and Behavioral Health Crisis Coordination Office.

Sustained funding will be required to keep the 988 line, forcing some states to impose telecommunications fees to support it. The 988 system will build on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that in 2020 answered about 2.4 million calls.

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