The United States will have a new three-digit hotline this summer designed to assist with mental health. The number, 988, which will route to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, will be the 911 equivalent for mental health emergencies, such as suicidal ideation, though some mental health professionals are concerned with how the hotline will be staffed and funded.
Beginning July 16, the 988 number, which replaces the old number 1-800-273-8255, will be available nationwide, but experts are expecting there to be a large volume of calls and, unfortunately, there isn’t necessarily the right amount of funding to man the phones properly.
“We have all of the technology,” said Jennifer Piver, the executive director of Mental Health America of Greenville County in South Carolina, to NBC News. “We do not have the funding for staff, for salaries.”
According to NBC News, this nationwide call for establishing mental health services made it so that every state in the US would offer a more robust assistance plan, however, no funding was allocated on a national level to make it happen. Some states have money for this type of program, but many do not. In fact, only Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and Washington have a plan in place to fund such a program.
Qualified professionals are the ideal hires to man the phone lines for 988, but without the proper funding to pay them, Piver told NBC News that calls would end up getting rerouted to other resources such as the National Suicide Hotline or to other states that might have a better staffed line.
While this is still helpful as long as someone answers, it’s more beneficial for those experiencing crises to have more people answering the phones in their time of need. “If we don’t have the folks to answer the phone, time is an issue,” Piver told NBC News.
The new line, 988, will be available starting July 16. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is currently looking for both volunteers and paid professionals to help staff up the hotline and better assist those in need. The old number for the Lifeline will still work, the new number will just make it faster and easier for people to call when they need help.
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