States Appear Unprepared For Launching National Suicide Prevention Hotline

By: Courtney Kloss & Nabou Thiam

Back in 2020, Congress passed bipartisan legislation to mandate the creation of the new National Suicide Prevention Hotline “988” number, which is set to launch on July 16th across the nation. It would function similarly to 911, 811, and other emergency numbers. However, they left the financial support and staffing for the phone lines and computers to the state level.

This has left states like Illinois, Maryland, and Connecticut in a tricky position as they have not made any advances or allocated resources to the federally mandated hotline. The US Department of Health and Human Services introduced $177 million to expand the network of the already existing hotline (1- 800-273-TALK) with an additional $105 million to increase necessary staffing across call centers.

Still, a Rand Corporation survey found 51% of mental health agency directors reported that they hadn't been involved in the development of a strategic plan for the launch of 988. Only 16% reported that they had helped develop a budget to support 988 operations, a shocking figure as it’s less than 3 weeks from its launching.