New 988 Mental Health Crisis Hotline Launches Nationwide

This article was provided by MI Blues Perspectives. 

Beginning July 16, 2022, people struggling with a mental health or substance use crisis — or who are having thoughts of suicide — can call 988. This new number provides an easier way to connect to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The move to 988 doesn’t mean the Lifeline number at 1-800-273-8255 goes away. After July 16, using either number will get callers to Lifeline’s network of more than 200 locally operated and funded crisis centers across the country. Text (English only) will also be available through 988.

When someone calls or texts 988, they will be responded to by a crisis counselor from a group of Lifeline crisis centers. The counselor will listen, work to understand the problem, provide support and share resources that may be helpful.

“We were pleased to learn that there will be another lifesaving resource to help people in emotional distress who are coping with mental health and substance use issues,” said Dr. Amy McKenzie, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s vice president for clinical partnerships and associate chief Medical officer.

The bottom line: 988 is a shorter, easier-to-remember way to connect to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has been operational since 2005. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission established the 988 number as part of an effort to strengthen and expand the existing Lifeline, which experienced a significant increase in calls following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns led to an increase in the number of people struggling with mental health conditions and substance use disorder,” McKenzie explained. “At Blue Cross, we’ve put many new initiatives in place over the past two years to help our employees and members get the support they need, and the federal government has also been focused on addressing the behavioral health crisis, which amplifies the impact across the country.”

She pointed specifically to our behavioral health website, which launched last year as part of our behavioral health member engagement campaign. It provides a wide range of information about mental health and substance use conditions, as well as resources that our employees and members can use to address any behavioral health concerns.

For more information about the 988 number, see this information on the SAMHSA website.

This article was provided by MI Blues Perspectives.