HHS dedicates $280 million toward transition to 988 suicide prevention hotline

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will dedicate $280 million to transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the three-digit phone number 988 in July 2022, officials announced on Monday.

The funding from the Biden administration’s fiscal 2022 budget and the American Rescue Plan will go toward the “critical priority” of making the suicide prevention hotline more accessible across the country, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters on a call. 

Approximately $177 million will be allocated through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to improve and expand lifeline network operations and telephone infrastructure. Another $105 million is meant to increase staffing at state and local crisis call centers.

“This is the beginning of a major effort undertaken by the administration to really put resources behind this effort to try to improve that infrastructure we have for mental health and crisis care services,” Becerra said.

“If we do this right and we do it together as a team, 988 will become a lifeline, just as 911 has become a foundation in emergency response,” he added.

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the HHS assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, said that call centers are currently “underfunded,” adding that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people and the 10th leading cause of death among all Americans. 

“It’s a direct connection to compassionate accessible care for all Americans who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts or at risk for suicide or struggling,” she said.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved 988 as the new national suicide prevention hotline last year, giving phone service providers until July 16, 2022, to make the switch. Last month, the FCC also voted to allow people to text 988 for assistance.

Before July, Americans needing help should call the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

The National Center of Health Statistics counted almost 46,000 suicides in 2020, making it the second consecutive year that suicides decreased overall.

Tags 988 Department of Health and Human Services HHS Mental health national suicide prevention hotline Suicide Suicide prevention Xavier Becerra

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