When there’s an emergency, we call 911 for help. When we need to know what is going on locally, we call 311 for information. Shouldn’t there also be an easy way to reach and seek professional mental support? Starting in July, people across the country will be able to call 988 if they are experiencing a mental health crisis.
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The national suicide hotline is 800-273-8255 — however, Democratic Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) has been pushing for bipartisan legislation with the 988 Implementation Act to make it easier for Americans to have an effortless way to get the help they need.
Before the launch of the 988 hotline in July, the 988 Implementation Act will also provide federal funding and guidance for states to implement their crisis response infrastructure.
“There is no question 988 will change the trajectory of how we respond to those experiencing mental health crises, but just a new number alone is not enough,” said Rep. Cárdenas. “When people start calling 988 this July, they must be connected to the proper assistance they need, with the urgency and support they deserve.”
According to the Washington Post, lawmakers put an increase of over $77 million toward a long-term government funding bill passed earlier this month. And the Biden administration plans to request nearly $700 million for launching 988 in its upcoming budget.
The US is experiencing a surging mental health crisis. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 10-34, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition, more than 100,000 Americans have died from overdoses in the last 12 months. In 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, 19.86% of adults experienced a mental illness, equivalent to nearly 50 million Americans.
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“For this to truly be a life-saving alternative to 911, there must be someone to call, someone to come and somewhere to go,” said Rep. Cárdenas. “The 988 Implementation Act will provide federal support, guidance, and funding to ensure all states are best equipped to respond to a person in crisis and avoid preventable tragedies. 988 is giving us a historic opportunity to change the way mental health crises are treated in America, and together, we can work towards a future where mental health isn’t criminalized. My hope is that people in need, anytime and anywhere, can call 988, and when they do, they’ll find the support they need.”