Aug 17, 2023 - Health

How the 988 crisis hotline is faring in D.C.

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation. Note: Does not include calls to the Veterans Crisis Line. Map: Alice Feng/Axios

More than 35% of calls made to the 988 crisis hotline in D.C. between April and May were redirected outside the District, per a new analysis from health research outlet KFF.

Why it matters: When calls are transferred to another locality because the local hotline center is unavailable or the wait time is too long, it becomes much harder for those specialists to locate nearby services for people in crisis.

What's happening: These redirected calls are happening at a time when most Americans still aren't aware the 988 national suicide prevention and mental health hotline exists, Axios' Sabrina Moreno reports.

By the numbers: There were more than 1,600 calls made to 988 from D.C. in the time period analyzed.

The big picture: As we hit the service's one-year mark, few states have established long-term funding commitments to sustain it.

Meanwhile, plans to use some of the nearly $1 billion in federal funding for a nationwide public service campaign haven't materialized, partly due to early concerns that marketing 988 could overwhelm the hotline past capacity.

The intrigue: Virginia was better positioned than many states for the 988 launch, per the Virginia Mercury.

  • Virginia was the first in the nation to implement a 988 service fee, collected from wireless carriers, to support the state's Crisis Call Center Fund, Axios' Karri Peifer reports.
  • The fee contributed $4.7 million to the fund in the last fiscal year and is budgeted to contribute more than $9 million in this fiscal year. Still, staffing challenges persist, per the Mercury.

The bottom line: Without more outreach and resources, 988 could languish as the nation continues to grapple with its mental health crisis.


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