988 is an ACT that has been implemented and will go live beginning Saturday July 16th, 2022. The purpose of this is to provide federal support designated by Congress as a dialing code and an alternative to dialing the former 1-800 number that will operate through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. One benefit of this is providing 24/7 resources to connect those in crisis as well as their family members/caregivers with services which include but are not limited to responders and crisis centers that have been trained specifically in the mental health fields. For parties interested in the Sacramento area, WellSpace is currently hiring for this position.
According to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, one goal of this new suicide and crisis hotline is to strengthen suicide prevention and take a step in the direction of transforming the crisis care system in the U.S. Their data shows that in 2020, there was one death by suicide every eleven minutes and that suicide is the leading cause of death for people 10-34 years of age.
Although I personally have yet to come across any information on it but listening to discussions amongst peers a huge concern seems to view this new dialing code as an alternative or another option to dialing 911 having police show up to a scene with guns drawn when in some cases it’s not necessary. I’ve witnessed scenarios where in some instances, law enforcement was not trained to access or conclude a mental health crisis resulting in the worst possible outcome. However, since my own training of acquiring the tools necessary to successfully deescalate these situations, I’ve had opportunities to speak with law enforcement regarding key factors and triggers to look for in recognizing when someone is in crisis as opposed to an actual threat. There has been mention of programs being put into place where peers trained in mental health crisis may be called to a scene to assist officers in an effort of a more positive outcome. There are courses offered free to law enforcement, first responders and other medical professionals to help aid them which ultimately leads to a better outcome for all involved. While I have personally seen these professionals in action in an attempt to do their very best, they too are human, and it is a team effort for us all. I’m certain we all if not through our own experiences, know of someone who has been affected by mental health in some form. Even if/when taken into custody, these individuals can receive treatment and resources to get them started on their journey to recovery. As with any new concept, there are usually flaws or aspects that continually need to be worked out; however, I am hopeful for the implementation of this new ACT.