Fully implement the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline

Emergency & Crisis Response
social determinants of health
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Coverage & Standards
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Federal department
Health and Human Services
house committees
House Appropriations Committee
House Energy and Commerce Committee
senate committees
Senate Appropriations Committee
Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) should continue to fully implement the 988 number, with response driven by healthcare systems, not public safety systems.[1] Enhanced training should be provided to counselors answering 988 calls, and coordination between 988, 911, and all services within the continuum should be strengthened.[2] Clinically staffed crisis response should be integrated within 911, and training provided to 911 operators in identifying mental health needs and linking callers to mental health crisis response services.[1] Congress should provide the funding necessary to scale up 988 to meet the high – and increasing need. Funding should be at least $946 million a year – and should grow over time. Of this amount, $100 million is needed for state Mental Health Crisis Response Grants, $836 for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline program, and $10 million for the Behavioral Health Crisis & 988 Coordinating Office at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.[3]


The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, was created to help address the increasing rates of suicide and overdose in the United States.[4] 988 offers 24/7 access to trained counselors via call, text, and chat, who provide support and resources, if needed. Efforts to improve cultural competency training for Lifeline counselors are ongoing.[5] In the fall of 2022, the 988 system set up a program to connect high-risk LGBTQI+ youth to counselors that could meet their needs.[4] Yet, access to a robust crisis services system for those who call does not yet exist.

In May 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced more than $200 million in funding for 988, which provides opportunities to improve multiple aspects of local responses. These include making enhancements to the 988 workforce, improving services for vulnerable populations, ensuring access to culturally competent support centers, and allowing for systemic follow-up and enhanced coordination of crisis stabilization among emergency services.[2][6]

While this is an important step, more action is needed to implement the 988 system and establish effective care interventions to provide help to those in crisis when they need it most.


1. CEO Alliance for Mental Health. A United Vision for Transforming Mental Health and Substance Use Care. Last Accessed 2022.

2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Policy Priority: Access to Care and Services. Last Accessed 2023.

3. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Reimagine Crisis Response. Last Accessed July 16, 2023.

4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 988 Frequently Asked Questions. Last Accessed June 15, 2023.

5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA Releases New Data on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Behavioral Health. Last Accessed June 13, 2023.

6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Announces Additional $200 Million in Funding for 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Last Accessed May 17, 2023.