By Taylor Savage, Policy Intern

On Wednesday, June 15th, 2022, the Bipartisan Policy Center hosted “988: Answering the Call” to discuss their new report containing recommendations for a more comprehensive mental health crisis response system, as well as the transition of the already existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to a new dialing code, 988, this July. The BPC’s new report tackles the following three broad policy areas:

  • Ensuring Federal support, collaboration, and coordination to and with state and local governments for an equitable crisis response implementation,
  • Supporting, expanding, and diversifying the crisis workforce,
  • Sustainably financing the infrastructure for and coverage of services provided along the crisis continuum.

Because crisis services are significantly more fragmented and variable than other healthcare services, the BPC also recommends that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) establish a scorecard for states to assess performance-based national standards and the extent to which states are implementing their 988 programs and compare progress among states and over time.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, rates of mental illness and suicide in the United States are high and rising and are particularly pronounced among young adults and residents in rural areas. The new number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 988, provides an alternate access point into care and helps keep individuals in crisis away from police involvement and the criminal justice system.

Mary Giliberti, Chief Public Policy Officer at Mental Health America, heavily recommended that the SAMHSA release guidelines specific to behavioral health crises for children because “Children are not little adults.” Because of this, children need a service system designed to meet their unique needs and circumstances.