State health officials are preparing for the launch of the 988 mental health hotline Saturday amid concerns over resources to handle the anticipated increase in calls, Politico reports.
All states currently operate at least one call center as part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. On Saturday, the old number — 800-273-TALK — will be replaced by 988.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided new funds to help states expand their crisis networks in advance of the hotline’s launch. But federal officials say few states have implemented long-term funding for the hotline.
“988 isn’t just a number, it’s a message,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters earlier this month. “It’s the signal to America that we want to consolidate that service, we want to strengthen that service and we want to make it consistent. We won’t have the luxury of decades like 911 had to get on the ground and running.”
Some states have round-the-clock crisis call centers, while others are just now expanding to 24/7 operations. Some states have only one call center, while others have more than a dozen. While some states answer most calls themselves, others route more than half their calls out-of-state to 15 backup centers.