The 988 dialing code operates through what was formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a network of over 200 locally operated and funded crisis centers around the country.
Congress designated 988 in 2020 and the Lifeline transitioned to the 3-digit number in July 2022. As a part of the federal government’s commitment to addressing the mental health crisis in America, unprecedented federal resources have been invested to scale up crisis centers in support of 988.
Transition to 988 is an important step forward and offers an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen and transform crisis care in our country.
While this is an exciting time to reimagine how we provide crisis services in the U.S., the full vision of a transformed crisis care system with 988 at its core will not be built overnight. Transformation of this scale will take time. That success depends heavily on state and territory support, so states and the federal government must all work together.
Transformation of this scale is never easy. The sustainable success of 988 depends heavily on the willingness of state, territorial, and local leaders to make additional investments in shoring up their crisis care systems. The federal government cannot do this alone.
We anticipate that 988 will continue to grow and evolve over the years, much the way 911 and emergency medical services have grown over the past five decades. We do expect a more rapid 988 transition to occur to meet the expected demand for 24/7 access to trained counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use and other mental health crises.
In the longer term, the vision for 988 is to build a robust crisis care response system across the country that links callers to community-based providers who can deliver a full range of crisis care services, if needed (like mobile crisis teams or stabilization centers), in addition to connecting callers to tools and resources that will help prevent future crisis situations. This more robust system will be essential to meeting crisis care needs across the nation. We envision a day when everyone across our country has someone to call, someone to respond, and a safe place to go for crisis care.