WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The new 988 hotline that went live about a month ago is aimed at making it easier for people to get help for mental health issues, but advocates and lawmakers say it needs more resources.
On July 16, 988 became the new number for the already-existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Within days, the amount of calls and texts to the number jumped.
Angela Kimball, a mental health advocate with Inseparable, says that’s significant.
“More people get help, more people get on a path to recovery. That’s exactly what we want to see out of this,” Kimball said.
The federal government put hundreds of millions of dollars into the transition. Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., now says there’s more to do.
“To make sure that we build that system like the system that has been going on for over 50 years which is now 911,” Cardenas.
He’s introduced legislation to boost funding for 988 crisis response and build out mental health services on three different levels.
“Where you have somewhere to call – someone will come and somewhere to go,” Cardenas said.
Advocates say that means making sure 988 call centers have the staff they need, communities have mobile crisis teams to respond and people have facilities where they can get longer term mental health support.
“We really need to speak up and asl our elected officials to create the kind of crisis response that gets everybody the help that they need,” Kimball said.
Getting lawmakers to approve more spending can be an uphill battle. But Rep. Cardenas says mental health is a topic where they can find common ground.
“Mental health is something that affects way too many families and every community equally and I’m seeing more and more of a bipartisan effort,” Cardenas said.
Kimball argues spending more on mental health could reduce spending on places like prisons and hospitals which often become a default catch-all for people in crisis.
“We need to use our resources better and that means reinvesting them into services that actually work,” Kimball said.
Both Cardenas and Kimball are also advocating for state and local resources to invest more funding into 988 services.