On Monday, July 18th, 2022, the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted legislative briefing on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s transition to 988, days after the new mental health hotline number officially launched over the weekend. Secretary Xavier Becerra, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, and other HHS officials were joined by key actors involved in the transition to discuss its initial launch and next steps towards building the hotline’s capacity.

Secretary Becerra emphasized the importance of ramping up investment and building capacity among states, territories, and tribal governments. HHS distributed $105M in grants to help state and local crisis response systems prepare to launch the new hotline, but it will be up to individual state and tribal governments to dedicate a steady stream of funds to 988 over the long term. The Secretary offered his thanks and congratulations to four states that have already started to impose fees on telephone providers to support their crisis response services: Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington.

Michelle McDaniel, CEO of the Seattle-based crisis telephone service provider Crisis Connections, said that her organizations’ 200 call centers across the county have seen a 53% increase in calls per day since 988 launched on Saturday. She said the nominal fee on Washington phone bills is supporting important work in the state including the Native and Strong Lifeline dedicated to providing culturally appropriate support to Native American and Alaskan Native individuals who call 988.

In last week’s monitor, we covered the release of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s new report which outlines policy recommendations to improve the implementation of 988 and build out the nation’s crisis response infrastructure. SAMHSA has released a wealth of resources on its website to help people educate and advocate for the new 988 lifeline including fact sheets, key messages, data, and more.

By Alex Lord-Wilkinson, Policy Intern, Pizzigati Fellow