1 year later: Assessing the 988 mental health hotline


Thursday, Aug. 17 at 1:30 p.m. ET 

The national 988 mental health crisis line was launched in July 2022 as an easier-to-remember alternative to the previous 10-digit hotline. The initiative, modeled after 911, is intended to reduce the incidence of suicide and the mental health crises that underlay suicidal ideation, attempts and fatalities. It is distinct from 911 in that it specifically addresses suicide crises.

From the start, there have been questions about how well the hotline would function, including whether it would result in distressed people being involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospital wards or put the caller at risk of trauma or tragedy by sending armed police untrained in mental health interventions. Panelists — including a behavioral health policy researcher and a population health management strategist — will address those questions and related aspects of this topic. 

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Vincent Atchity

Heather Saunders

Katti Gray


Vincent Atchity is president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, which, in 2019, absorbed The Equitas Project, a national initiative to disentangle mental health and criminal justice that Atchity served as executive director. A population health management strategist, Atchity has worked on care management, cost control, outcomes improvement, workforce development, data integration, partnership network development and support, project design, education and fundraising. Atchity is a member of the Colorado Public Defender Commission, the Governor’s Strategic Planning Task Force to Increase Behavioral Health Access, the Denver District Attorney Advisory Council on Mental Health and the Colorado School of Public Health Behavioral Health Initiative Advisory Board. He has taught at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Fordham University in New York and was an assistant dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health.

Heather Saunders is a postdoctoral fellow in the Kaiser Family Foundation Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Her work focuses on behavioral health policy, workforce adequacy and health care delivery for people with disabilities. Prior to joining KFF, Saunders was a researcher for Virginia's Medicaid program. Before that, while employed as a social worker, she worked with clients in hospitals, schools and outpatient settings. She also managed randomized controlled trials in behavioral health care medical settings. Saunders earned a doctorate in health care policy and research from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her dissertation examined access to behavioral health services.

Katti Gray is AHCJ's health beat leader for behavioral and mental health. A former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Gray is providing resources to help AHCJ members expand their coverage of mental health amid ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness and to place mental health care on par with all health care. She has covered, among other topics, mental health care in prisons and jails, the debate over whether mental illnesses are being over-diagnosed and efforts to persuade persons of color to be less skeptical about seeking counseling and other mental health services.