Funding for 988 & crisis response
About the issue
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) is a national network of state and local crisis centers linked through a 24/7 toll-free number (1-800-273-TALK or 8255) that connects callers throughout the U.S. to immediate crisis care. The Lifeline network consists of over 170 independently operated local- and state-funded crisis centers. Ideally, callers are connected with a local counselor in their own state. However, if the local center is unable to answer, the Lifeline reroutes calls to backup centers in their network, both in- and out-of-state.
Although the Lifeline has proven itself to be an essential and necessary component of the suicide prevention and mental health crisis care system, the current Lifeline network consistently faces two main interconnected barriers to its effectiveness and success: insufficient funding and the capacity to respond to a steadily increasing call volume.
Funding and capacity issues must be addressed now, as the new 988 number for the Lifeline will be operational nationwide by July 2022*. The (federal) National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S.2661) was signed into law in October 2020; the new law and its related Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling officially designates 988 as the future three-digit dialing code for the Lifeline. The new law also aims to strengthen local crisis response capacity to adequately meet 988 service demand by allowing each state to pass their own legislation funding 988 the same way as 911, through state-managed monthly customer service fees.
*Until July 2022, please continue to dial 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Our policy position
AFSP recognizes that crisis call centers provide invaluable support at critical times and connect individuals to services that can save lives. Statewide crisis call centers can reduce gaps in local service delivery, and local Lifeline affiliated call centers ensure callers are linked with local services and resources. Federal and state support for and investment in the Lifeline network is critical for crisis centers across the U.S. at a time when many are underfunded and struggling to meet current service demand, much less the when the Lifeline number changes to 988.
Currently, we are focused on increases in federal and state funding for the 988 crisis response continuum, including the Lifeline and its network of crisis call centers. Adequate funding from diverse sources, including customer service fees as allowed for in the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, is needed to ensure that calls can truly be answered 24/7/365 by trained, in-state crisis counselors who can connect callers to in-person crisis response services as needed and other lifesaving follow-up care.
To learn more, read our Crisis Lines: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network issue brief and view our webinar, “The State of 988”.
SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline – Peer support and resources for older LGBTQ adults available 24/7