Cárdenas, Los Angeles County Showcase New National 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
LOS ANGELES – Today, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) as well as leaders from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Prevention Center showcased the new National 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
In 2020, Congress designated 988 as the new, free, 24/7 dialing code to connect callers to the former National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. As of July 16, 2022, people in California who are experiencing a mental health crisis, emotional distress or concerns about a family member have been able to dial or text 988, and chat at 988lifeline.org to receive assistance through the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. In California, this number is operated by Didi Hirsch and 12 other organizations. While Los Angeles County is becoming a model across the country for implementing a full crisis continuum of care for 988, sustainable long-term federal and state funding is needed to fully meet its potential.
“There is no question that 988 is already saving lives here in Los Angeles and across the country,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “As I’ve said before, if we want 988 to be truly successful, there has to be a continuum of care, meaning there should be someone to call, someone to come and somewhere to go. That’s exactly what we’re seeing here in Los Angeles and it’s all thanks to the incredible work of Supervisors Hahn and Barger, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and Didi Hirsch. But to truly meet this moment and carry forward the full potential of 988, we need to do more. Congress has already deployed over $400 million to states and local governments for 988. As of today, I’m proud to say that the House appropriations committee has advanced a spending package that funds many of the provisions in my 988 Implementation Act. Now, I look to the full House and Senate to pass it as quickly as possible to get communities across the country the funding they need. However, the long-term success of 988 also depends on our partnership with states. I urge every state legislature to enact legislation to fully implement and fund 988. By working together, we can make sure every person in America receives the right response and care they need.”
“988 has been a game changer for Los Angeles County,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn who has championed the County’s alternative crisis response program and implementation of 988. “Since the launch last month, we have not only gotten more calls from people experiencing mental health crises, we have been able to get them connected to help – either over the phone or by sending mental health professionals directly to their door. This model is working, but we don’t have the capacity yet to meet the overwhelming need that exists in the county. We need federal and state support and we need Congress to pass Congressman Cárdenas’s 988 Implementation Act.
“I want to thank Congressman Cárdenas for his leadership in ensuring the success of the 988 system," said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. "Individuals in crisis deserve health care, not criminalization. Here in California, we must pass my bill, AB 988, to ensure that every Californian in mental health crisis has access to the 988 call centers and mobile crisis response teams who can respond. These efforts will save countless lives.”
"As the lead California organization to launch the 988 Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline, Didi Hirsch has been working with 12 other crisis centers to strengthen and expand this infrastructure. Didi Hirsch's bilingual (English/Spanish) counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, responding to the 988 Lifeline calls, texts, and chats, supporting those in mental health or suicidal distress," said Didi Hirsch's Chief Executive Officer Lyn Morris, LMFT. "We commend Congressmember Tony Cárdenas for his commitment and determination to align government jurisdictions' to support life-saving services for our most vulnerable communities."
America is experiencing a growing mental health crisis. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34. More than 100,000 Americans have died from overdoses in the last 12 months.
Right now, many Americans have been forced to rely on the police for assistance during a mental health or substance use crisis. Most police officers are not trained to effectively respond to mental health emergencies, and relying on them to be the first responders during a mental health emergency increases the chances of violence. In fact, a police encounter with a civilian is 16 times more likely to result in that person’s death if they have an untreated mental illness.
Unfortunately, these stories are a reality for too many across the nation. For one California mother, not having access to 988 and crisis services was the difference between life and death for her son.
“Having a system that didn’t rely on police to take care of mental health crises would have most likely saved my son, Miles Hall, who was killed on June 2, 2019, after we called 911 for assistance getting him to the hospital,” said Taun Hall. “I wish we had another number to turn for help and I’m hopeful that 988 will give families like mine a chance for their loved ones to live and thrive, so that families are spared this anguish. Thank you Congressman Cárdenas for understanding the urgency to change the mental health system. We miss Miles every day.”
To meet the rising need, we need a whole-of-government approach to ensure 988 is truly successful. At the federal level, Congressman Cárdenas is urging Congress to increase funding for 988 by passing his bipartisan 988 Implementation Act. Already Congress has sent the following to the 988 Lifeline:
- $282M, one-time American Rescue Plan anomaly funding for 988 & crisis services. Of this, $105 million went to states and territories to staff local crisis call centers;
- $116.6 million for 988 & crisis services in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (omnibus) for FY 2022; and
- $150M, one time supplemental for FY 22 in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
For 988 to be effective, there must be someone to call, someone to come and somewhere to go if needed. The 988 Implementation Act provides federal support, guidance and funding for states to enact 988 and crisis services. These measures will ensure that it’s not just a number to call but a resource to connect to services on the ground, including trained first responders and crisis centers. The 988 Implementation Act:
- Solidifies funding for the 988 national hotline to ensure a timely 24/7 response to callers anywhere in the country.
- Provides funding for community-based crisis response, including local call centers, mobile crisis teams and crisis centers.
- Supports crisis workforce development with increased funding for training and scholarship opportunities.
- Increases access to care by requiring that all health insurance plans cover crisis services.
- Allows all states to have the opportunity to establish certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs), which provide comprehensive mental health and substance use services, including 24/7 crisis services.
- Implements a national suicide prevention awareness campaign in partnership with a wide array of stakeholders.
- Provides technical assistance for states to implement crisis services and supports research for continuous quality improvement.
As of today, only five states have passed legislation to fund 988 through a phone fee. In California, the Miles Hall Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Actsponsored by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan implements 988, as well as designates hotline centers to provide 24/7 help and intervention. These crisis centers would deploy mobile crisis teams and stabilization services, as well as follow up with the callers to ensure long-term care.