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Bipartisan House Delegation Introduces 988 Implementation Act

The legislation provides federal funding and guidance for states to implement their 988 crisis response infrastructure to ensure that when a person experiences a crisis, there is someone to call, someone to come and somewhere to go

Today Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) introduced the 988 Implementation Act with Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA), Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD). The transformative, comprehensive legislation will change our crisis response to mental health emergencies. The 988 Implementation Act will provide federal funding and guidance for states to implement their crisis response infrastructure ahead of the July launch of the new national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline, 988. 

“There is no question 988 will change the trajectory of how we respond to those experiencing mental health crises, but just a new number alone is not enough,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “When people start calling 988 this July, they must be connected to the proper assistance they need, with the urgency and support they deserve. For this to truly be a life-saving alternative to 911, there must be someone to call, someone to come and somewhere to go. The 988 Implementation Act will provide federal support, guidance and funding to ensure all states are best equipped to respond to a person in crisis and avoid preventable tragedies. 988 is giving us a historic opportunity to change the way mental health crises are treated in America, and together, we can work towards a future where mental health isn’t criminalized. My hope is that people in need, anytime and anywhere, can call 988 and when they do, they’ll find the support they need.” 

“People calling 988 in crisis may need to be connected to critical services — and Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs) stand ready to answer that call,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “ The CCBHC model has already proven successful in expanding access to integrated physical and behavioral health care, including 24/7 community-based crisis intervention for individuals with serious mental illnesses. For 988, CCBHCs are essential local resources equipped to dispatch mobile response teams to people in need, enabling our first responders to reduce reliance on emergency rooms and law enforcement for crisis stabilization. I am proud to have my bill, the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act of 2021, which is legislation that would allow every state to join the innovative CCBHC model, included in this important package. By working together and taking a comprehensive approach to 988 implementation, we can ensure that the hotline is expanding each states’ capacity for crisis response.”

“Today, millions of Americans are struggling with worsening mental health. No matter their condition, too often, individuals don’t have access to the behavioral health services that would address their needs,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “I am pleased to introduce the 988 Implementation Act which will help ensure that every person in crisis receives the right response in the right place every time and help us realize the promise of 988.”

“Now more than ever, it is imperative that we provide crucial support and expand resources for the millions of those struggling with mental health in our country,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “As Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force, I proudly support the 988 Implementation Act, which will bolster the behavioral health crisis continuum of care nationwide and ensure that the lifesaving 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline is successfully implemented." 

“The United States is facing a mental health crisis—made worse by two years of pandemic-induced trauma. My bill to make 9-8-8 the national hotline number for mental health emergencies was a critical step toward destigmatizing mental health and making care more accessible,” said Congressman Seth Moulton. “I’m proud to co-sponsor Congressman Cárdenas’ implementation legislation, which will give states the support they need to make 9-8-8 a reality. We’re long overdue to provide this service to Americans looking for a reliable, free place to turn during mental health emergencies.”

“With the July 2022 target implementation date fast approaching, we must ensure that a crisis services continuum—consisting of call centers, mobile crisis units, and crisis stabilizations programs--is solidified in all states. This immediate intervention increases the ability of individuals to recover from crises and assists to keep them out of future crises, and I am pleased our bill provides funding for the full crisis services continuum, ” said Congresswoman Napolitano. “We must all spread the word to individuals and the media, not only so they are aware of 9-8-8, but to help continue to reduce stigma. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to help save lives.”

“My colleagues and I have worked on a bipartisan basis for years to designate 9-8-8 as the simple, easy-to-use number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline,” said Congressman Beyer. “Now that this effort has been successful, it is essential that we support and fund an effective rollout to educate the nation about this important resource. Our comprehensive legislation would help make this effort successful, and do so much to help mental health and suicide prevention efforts in this country. It is time for Congress to get this done.”

“A mental health crisis is plaguing our country, and far too often those struggling to keep themselves safe from the ravages of depression, anxiety and other crippling mental health crises have nowhere to go for help," said Congressman Raskin. "The mental health of a people may not matter under an autocracy that treats its population like replaceable parts in a machine, but mental health is paramount in a strong democracy. I'm proud to help introduce the 988 Implementation Act to give our people a lifeline in their most difficult times. Thank you to my colleagues Congressman Cárdenas, Congresswoman Matsui, Congresswoman Napolitano, Congressman Moulton, Congresswoman Blunt Rochester, Congressman Fitzpatrick and Congressman Beyer for their visionary commitment to the mental health of all Americans."

America is experiencing a growing mental health crisis. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and 2nd 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, Americans are forced to rely on 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 emergency response unit 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.”

For 988 to be truly effective, crisis services must operate in a linked fashion. 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 and a national backup system 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.

The legislation is supported by more than 100 organizations including mental health advocates, clinical and medical professionals, law enforcement, state and local government officials, civil rights advocates, veterans and more.

“We know that 988 can be a gateway to ensure people in mental health crisis receive a mental health response,” said Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “NAMI is deeply grateful to Reps. Cárdenas, Beyer, Blunt Rochester, Fitzpatrick, Moulton, Napolitano and Raskin for their leadership in introducing the 988 Implementation Act. This bill would provide communities with much-needed resources to make this vision a reality by supporting 24/7 local crisis call centers, mobile crisis response, and crisis stabilization facilities – someone to talk to, someone to respond and somewhere to go. It would also create national standards for crisis care – setting the stage for equitable response across the country. We call for the swift passage of this critical legislation.” 

“Implementing 9-8-8 will require sustained investment to expand the capacity of mental health and substance use crisis response systems,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “Dedicated support must be made available every step of the way – from the national lifeline and regional and local call centers to mobile crisis response programs and community-based organizations offering on-the-ground treatment. We applaud this effort to bolster our nation’s crisis response infrastructure and expand proven community-based mental health and substance use services so anyone calling 9-8-8 has someone to talk to, someone to come to them and somewhere to go.” 

For a full list of endorsing organizations and quotes, click here

For a fact sheet, section by section and additional information on the 988 Implementation Act, click here. Full bill text can be found here