Infectious Disease

HHS to launch national ‘988’ suicide hotline

Source/Disclosures

Disclosures:
Becerra, McDonough and Rosenworcel report no relevant financial disclosures.

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The United States on Saturday, July 16, will transition the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to 988, an easy-to-remember number for 24/7 crisis care.

All telephone service and text providers in the US, as well as the five major US territories, will be required by the FCC to activate 988, a release from HHS stated.

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“[The] 988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the release. “Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans. There is still much work to do. But what matters is that we’re launching; 988 will be live. We are looking to every governor and every state in the nation to do their part to make this a long-term success.”

The Biden Administration has increased federal investments for the suicide hotline by 18-fold, from $24 million to $432 million, in an effort to scale-up crisis centers and backup center capacity, while providing special services, including a sub-network for those who speak Spanish.

In August 2019, the FCC proposed the 988 hotline to Congress, adopted rules for it in July 2020 and amended them to add texting in November 2021.

“All across our country, people are hurting. They need help. The good news is that getting that help just got a lot easier,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in the release. “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.”

The 988 hotline will also link to the Veterans Crisis Line, and those requiring Veterans Affairs services just need to dial “1” after calling 988.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough added in the release that “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.”

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