Biden gives states millions to improve suicide prevention lifeline

  • The Department of Health and Human Services is awarding nearly $105 million to 54 states and territories to help states transition from the 10-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to a simpler "988" dialing code to call, text or chat. (Dreamstime/TNS)

WASHINGTON — As part of a Biden administration push to expand mental health resources, the Department of Health and Human Services is awarding nearly $105 million to 54 states and territories to help states transition from the 10-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to a simpler “988” dialing code to call, text or chat.

The money comes from the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law last year.

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One person died by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14 and young adults aged 25 to 34 that year.

Along with other funds, the Biden administration is increasing federal funding of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by 40-fold compared to four years ago, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“It is imperative that states and territories partner closely with HHS to ensure the highest level of 988 contact response,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement provided to The Sacramento Bee. Becerra was California’s attorney general before being tapped by President Joe Biden for the administration position.

Congress designated that the new 988 dialing code be operated through the current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in 2020. Since then, members of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have met with national and local partners, crisis contact centers and behavioral health providers to facilitate the transition and improve the lifeline.

In addition to the funding, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has provided learning materials, such as sample videos and social media posts, for states to improve the lifeline’s services.

“Preparing for the transition to 988 is a top priority for SAMHSA,” said Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, who leads the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Not only will we continue working with our federal and national stakeholders to achieve a smooth transition, but these grants demonstrate that states and territories are also critical partners in this effort.”

Improvements to the lifeline, which plans to transition to the three-digit 988 in mid-July, fall in line with the president’s stated mission to alleviate the mental health crisis. Following Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, 2022, Becerra started a national mental health tour to learn about new ways to improve resources locally.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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