Rittmon, Ph.D., the HHS assistant ….
Rittmon, Ph.D., the HHS assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and leader of SAMHSA. “Over time, the vision for 988 is to have additional crisis services available in communities across the country, much the way emergency medical services work. The success of 988 depends on our continued partnership with states, as the federal government cannot do this alone. We urge states and territories to join us and invest further in answering the call to transform our crisis care response nationwide.”
FCC staff first proposed 988 in a report to Congress in August 2019 as the nationwide, easy-to-remember, 3-digit dialing code for individuals in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules designating 988 for this purpose. Recognizing the need to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities, the FCC adopted additional rules in November 2021 to expand access to this important service by establishing the ability to also text 988.
“All across our country, people are hurting. They need help. The good news is that getting that help just got a lot easier. Starting tomorrow, 988 will be available nationwide for individuals in crisis, and their loved ones, to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline more easily,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This cross-government effort has been years in the making and comes at a crucial point to help address the mental health crisis in our country, especially for our young people.”
VA administers the Veterans Crisis Line through the Lifeline’s national network. Because of VA’s partnership with the Lifeline, the Veterans Crisis Line is affected by this transition to a new number. Veterans and their loved ones can now Dial 988 then Press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
“988 has been a long time coming and will serve as a critical resource during a crisis when every second counts. The new, shorter number will help ensure Veterans have easier access to the Veterans Crisis Line,” said VA secretary Denis Mc-Donough. “This launch is a whole-of-government approach in line with the President’s call to prioritize mental healthby strengthening access to crisis services, and preventing Veteran suicide, our top clinical priority.”
In 2021, the Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts. That number is expected to at least double within the first full year after the 988 transition.
The United States had one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10-14 and 25-34. From April 2020 to 2021, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. Studies have shown that after speaking with a trained crisis counselor, most Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful.
The 10-digit Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will continue to be operational after July 16 and will route calls to 988 indefinitely. Veterans, service members, and their families can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the current phone number 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or by chat or text to 838255.