People in crisis related to mental illness and substance use disorder are more likely to encounter police than get medical attention. This results in millions of people with mental health and substance use disorders being jailed every year.
Mental health and substance use disorders are health care issues, not crimes, and an appropriate response should connect people to care, not jail. Yet, police have become the default first responders for issues for which they are not adequately trained or prepared. This increases the chance of violence in encounters and prevents people from accessing care, which is often inaccessible in jail and upon release. Police response to mental health and addiction crises has been especially damaging in Black communities and other communities of color.
988 is a new three-digit emergency number that people can call in lieu of 911 for behavioral health crises. It is set to launch in July and will be available 24/7, anywhere in the U.S., to provide non-police response to behavioral health crises.
However, many states are still lacking adequate crisis services needed to make 988 a success. The 988 Implementation Act would provide federal funding and guidance to states to implement their crisis response infrastructure, including by solidifying funding for the 988 hotline and a national backup system to ensure a timely response to all callers; providing funding and technical assistance for a continuum of community-based crisis services; supporting crisis workforce development; setting standards for and requiring all health insurance plans to cover crisis services; and allowing all states to establish certified community behavioral health clinics, which provide comprehensive mental health and addiction services including 24/7 crisis services.
Ask your members of Congress to support the 988 Implementation Act to ensure that people experiencing behavioral health crises receive an appropriate, helpful response and are connected to needed services.