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Many Localities Not Ready for Launch of 988 Mental Health Hotline

Gaps in strategic planning, financial preparedness, availability of services, and system coordination are reported

THURSDAY, June 9, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Half of jurisdictions may not be prepared for the July launch of the new national 988 emergency mental health telephone service, according to the results of a survey conducted by RAND Health Care.

Jonathan H. Cantor, from the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, and colleagues assessed preparedness for the July 16, 2022, shift of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network to a three-digit number (988). The analysis included responses from 180 public health officials.

The survey found that just over half of survey respondents (51 percent) said that they were not involved with the development of a strategic plan related to the launch of 988. Only around 16 percent reported that they had a budget to support 988 operations. Most respondents (85 percent) reported that there was a mental health emergency response hotline or call center operating in their jurisdiction, but fewer than half of those hotlines were part of the Lifeline network. Just under half of participants’ jurisdictions (48 percent) had a short-term crisis stabilization program, only 28 percent had urgent care units for mental health, and only 22 percent had crisis call centers or hotlines that can schedule intake and outpatient appointments on behalf of individuals in need. Among jurisdictions with hotlines, just over half (55 percent) had staff specifically trained to interact with children and adolescents, but fewer than half had training to interact with individuals experiencing homelessness (46 percent) or LGBTQIA+ individuals (45 percent).

“These findings highlight areas of need that will be relevant for jurisdictions to address both prior to the launch of 988 in July 2022 and in the months that follow,” the authors write.

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