Tomorrow (July 16) is the official launch date for “988,” which converts the existing 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to an easy-to-remember three-digit number.
This switch is intended to connect people suffering mental health crises more quickly with trained professionals and reduce instances where they end up in confrontations with law enforcement officers.
But there are questions about how well states are prepared to carry out the vision of “988,” especially given the current shortage of mental health professionals. There are estimates that by 2027, the emergency helpline will receive 24 million calls, texts, and online chat requests annually, although some experts say the number could reach 41 million, wrote Julie Wertheimer and Kristen Mizzi Angelone in a July 14 report for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Below are resources for covering 988, including articles by fellow journalists who have taken a deep look at the challenges with the start-up process.
- New York Times, Steve Eder, “As a Crisis Hotline Grows, So Do Fears It Won’t Be Ready,” March 13, 2022
- Tradeoffs podcast “Answering the Call” series
–Part 1: America’s New Mental Health Crisis Line, Feb. 3, 2022
–Part 3: America’s New Crisis Line Goes Live, July 14, 2022
- Washington Post, Lenny Bernstein, “The national suicide hotline is changing to 988 starting Saturday,” July 14, 2022
- National Academy for State Health Policy’s State Legislation to Fund and Implement ‘988’ for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline web tracker
- National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors’ 988 – Transforming Crisis Systems Resources webpage
- Pew Charitable Trusts, “3 Key Considerations to Ensure Effectiveness of New 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline,” July 14, 2022
- RAND Corp. “Preparedness for 988 Throughout the United States: The New Mental Health Emergency Hotline,” 2022
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s congressional justification for its fiscal 2023 budget request. Jump to “the 988 and Behavioral Health Crisis Services” section of this document. It provides many details about the current demand for calls for help from people feeling suicidal or experiencing other mental health crises.
- AHCJ’s January 2022 tip sheet, which highlights details on the work of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and congressional appropriators in overseeing the startup of the 988 hotline.
- AHCJ’s mental health webpage
Email me if you write about this issue and have an article that might make a good “How I Did It” piece. Also, feel free to send suggestions and tips for covering the implementation of the 988 hotline to email@example.com.