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What is 988?

On July 16, 2022, 988 became the new national hotline for suicide prevention and mental health emergencies. Callers in crisis are now able to speak to a trained counselor at a certified call center in their state. A local crisis response team should be dispatched to help individuals who are in imminent danger to themselves or others. 

 

The 988 system will include: 

  • 24/7 crisis centers — someone to talk to

  • mobile crisis teams — someone to respond

  • crisis stabilization programs — somewhere to go [1]

Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act in September of 2020. Though a national suicide hotline has existed for years (1-800-273-TALK), the new three-digit number will be easier to remember and use. The bill requires states to implement the number by July 16, 2022.  

 

In recent years, national attention has been given to the state of mental health care and lack of crisis response in the United States. 988 is a significant opportunity to change how we care for people with mental illness and substance use disorders in our communities. The goals of the program include decriminalizing mental health emergencies, providing life-saving services, and transforming the behavioral health crisis response system.[2]

 

SOURCES

[1] 988 Reimagining Crisis Response

[2] 988 Appropriations Report

  • When should I call 988?
    Whenever you are seeking support for a mental health, suicide, or substance use crisis, you should call 988. 988 becomes available nationally on July 16th, 2022.
  • What happens when I call 988?
    You will hear a greeting message, and then your call will be sent to the closest Lifeline crisis center based on your phone number area code. A crisis counselor will then be there to support you. If the local center is experiencing a high call volume and is unable to take your call, your call will be routed to a national backup call center.
  • Can I text/talk to someone online?
    You are able to text 988 to receive support starting from the date 988 becomes available nationally, July 16th, 2022. You can also chat with a crisis counselor and receive support online through the National Suicide Prevention Line online chat portal.
  • Do I need to be insured to use 988?
    No insurance is necessary to call 988.[1] [1] https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/faqs
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