New 988 number coverage provides mental health crisis support

New 988 number coverage provides mental health crisis support

Starting today, July 16, 2022, midwesterners will have access to a nationwide mental health crisis hotline. By calling or texting the number 988 on a phone, your call will be routed to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and you will be connected with a professionally trained mental health professional, available 24/7.

As reported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, "while 988 itself is largely unknown to U.S. adults, people overwhelmingly support focusing on mental health resources for people in crisis. More than 4 in 5 adults (86%) believe that when someone is in a mental health or suicide crisis, they should receive a mental health response — not a police response. Along those lines, 85% of Black Americans say they would be afraid the police may hurt their loved ones or themselves while responding to a mental health crisis, an 11-point increase since 2021, and a number that is 21 percentage points higher than the general population (64%). Accordingly, they support key pieces that make up a robust crisis response system, such as creating 24/7 crisis call centers (91%) and sending mental health professionals to respond in person to crises (87%). They also agree that there must be an alternative to going to an emergency room during a mental health crisis (89%).

This new poll also finds most U.S. adults agree that we need to improve mental health crisis responses for specific communities that have been traditionally marginalized by our mental health system. In particular, respondents agree that crisis responses must be improved for people experiencing homelessness (83%), people with low incomes (82%), young people (79%), people of color (73%) and LGBTQ people (69%). Additionally, 86% of people agree that connecting with peers who have had a similar experience is important for people in crisis.

Improving and building these vital services will require a significant investment by state and federal governments. More than 4 in 5 people support state funding (85%) and federal funding (83%) for 988 call center operations and related crisis response services, with 79% agreeing that more federal funding is needed to support mental health crisis services. Furthermore, 88% of Americans support requiring all health insurers to cover mental health crisis services. Despite months of state-based campaigns against monthly fees on phone bills intended to fund 988 operations and services, nearly three-quarters of respondents are willing to pay some amount on their monthly phone bills to sustainably fund their state's crisis system, similar to how 911 is funded today.

Mental health remains an overwhelmingly agreed-upon issue during an era defined by disagreement. More than three-quarters (77%) of U.S. adults are not content with the status of mental health treatment in this country. About 9 in 10 Americans agree that everyone, regardless of location or income, deserves access to quality mental health care (91%) and mental health crisis response (89%) — support that goes beyond political party, geography, income, race/ethnicity and age – and 88% agree that society would be improved if everyone who needed mental health care was able to access it."

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