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ARLINGTON, VA — After years of advocacy and preparation, 988 is now available nationwide as the new number to contact for mental health, substance use and suicide crises, a simple, easy-to-remember way for people to get help. This new number will allow people to quickly connect with support during a crisis, 24/7, no matter where they live. However, with demand from help-seekers expected to at least double within one year and availability of local crisis services varying community-by-community, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and its more than 40 #ReimagineCrisis campaign partners are advocating for continued focus on and investments in crisis response systems.
To reinforce this need, NAMI led a group of leading mental health organizations in publishing an open letter on July 16 in The Washington Post urging policymakers to take action. The letter laid out four urgent needs:
“All around us, more people are experiencing a mental health crisis,” NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. said. “The nationwide availability of 988 is an important step forward, but the work to reimagine crisis response is just beginning. With 988, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine our response for people in crisis— and we cannot let it pass us by. Everyone in a mental health crisis deserves a mental health response and we need to continue to invest in building a crisis system.”
988 is the new three-digit dialing code connecting people to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline), where compassionate, accessible care and support are available for anyone experiencing a suicide, mental health or substance use crisis. People can also text 988 or chat with crisis counselors online at 988lifeline.org.
Local, state and national advocacy efforts are ongoing to connect the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline with a continuum of in-person crisis services for individuals who may need more support than can be provided over the phone, such as mobile crisis teams and crisis stabilization options. To make that a reality, policymakers must continue to take action. At the federal level, the recently passed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act increased investments in mental health, especially for young people, including $150 million in Fiscal Year 2022 to help implement 988. Some states across the country have also passed legislation to support 988 and crisis services.
There is broad public support for building a crisis system around 988. According to a recent NAMI-Ipsos poll, while only 4% of U.S. adults say they are at least somewhat familiar with 988, Americans overwhelmingly support key pieces that make up a robust crisis response system, such as creating 24/7 crisis call centers (91%). And when someone is in a mental health or suicide crisis, 86% believe that they should receive a mental health response — not a police response. Americans also support funding crisis services, with the vast majority supporting state funding (85%) and federal funding (83%), and 79% agreeing that more federal funding is needed to support mental health crisis services.
Learn more about efforts to #ReimagineCrisis and ongoing advocacy efforts at reimaginecrisis.org.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. #ReimagineCrisis is a campaign led by NAMI.
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