People in crisis and those trying to help them will have a new phone number — 988 — to reach the national suicide prevention network starting next month, but some mental health professionals worry they will not be ready to handle the anticipated flood of calls.
“We have all of the technology,” said Jennifer Piver, the executive director of Mental Health America of Greenville County in South Carolina. “We do not have the funding for staff, for salaries.”
In 2020, bipartisan legislation in Congress mandated the launch of the three-digit number to reach trained counselors who belong to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network, but left financial support for staffing, phone lines, computer systems and other infrastructure up to the states.
However, most states haven't allocated money for the service, with only Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and Washington, enacting comprehensive funding plans. According to a Rand Corp. report published last week, more than half of public health officials charged with launching the 988 line said they felt unprepared and without necessary financing for staffing or infrastructure to handle the rollout.