Funding will Augment $95 Million in State Budget Over Next Two Years to Implement 988 Crisis Hotline

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that New York State has been awarded $7.2 million by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help strengthen crisis call center services in preparation for the transition on July 16, 2022, of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the number 988 from the current 1-800-273-8255.

“The transition to 988 gives New York State a unique opportunity to strengthen its behavioral health crisis response system and increase its capacity to meet the needs of New Yorkers,” Governor Hochul said. “Too often, people experiencing a mental health crisis or considering suicide feel as though they have no one to turn to, but the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides hope and help. Introducing this easy-to-remember, three-digit number will be a critical too in helping more people access services and support as we continue to tackle behavioral health crises.”

New York State’s award is part of nearly $105 million in grant funding provided nationally by the American Rescue Plan to 54 states and territories. New York State will use the funds to improve response rates, ensuring calls that originate in the state are first routed to regional crisis contact centers. They may also use the funds to build the workforce necessary for enhancing local text and chat response.

Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “The 988 Lifeline will allow us to more effectively integrate the many local crisis care providers throughout the state. This collaboration will offer those in crisis more options to find the help they need. It will also help New York State and its localities to coordinate their responses to crisis situations and develop needed pathways to easily access services.”

Commissioner of the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports Chinazo Cunningham said, “Directing people having a substance use or mental health crisis to the appropriate help as quickly as possible is a critical step in helping them access lifesaving services and support. This funding to help strengthen call center services will make it easier for people to find help near them whenever they are in need, and will bolster this important initiative to support the health of all New Yorkers by establishing this crisis hotline”

Commissioner of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Kerri E. Neifeld said, “OPWDD is excited at the opportunity for collaboration that the 988 crisis call centers will provide to help people with developmental disabilities. Providing emergency supports in times of crisis can help stabilize a person, providing an immediate lifeline to critical supports while avoiding unnecessary emergency room visits or law enforcement involvement and enabling people to safely remain at home.”

State Senator Samra Brouk said, “Last year, as I was working to pass my bill to establish the 988 line in New York State, it became abundantly clear to me that this service is needed now more than ever. Now that we have successfully enacted my legislation authorizing the creation of a 9-8-8 hotline in New York State, this multimillion dollar grant from SAMHSA is a necessity to ensure that the state is equipped to transition to using the line later this year. Accessible via call or text, this line will undoubtedly save the lives of countless New Yorkers by giving them a resource in their time of need. I look forward to this line launching later this year, and remain steadfast in my commitment to transforming mental health in New York State.”

Assemblymember Aileen Gunther said, “I want to thank our federal partners for their work in securing this funding. The new 988 number couldn’t come at a better time for New York State. We’ve seeing people from all walks of life struggling with mental illness, and our call centers need to have the resources to tackle this crisis head-on.”

This award comes after passage of the New York State Budget, through which Governor Hochul secured $35 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year to significantly expand call center capacity throughout New York State. This support will increase to $60 million on a full annual basis. Such resources are critical to properly support 988 call centers throughout the state.

OMH has also allocated one-time funding of $10 million in supplemental Community Mental Health Services Block Grant resources to provide start-up for the call centers in the current year to build up statewide capacity and infrastructure by hiring and training staff, fortifying the network of backup centers, broadening the availability of chat/text services, and ensuring proper connections to community services.

The U.S. Congress in 2020 designated the new 988 dialing code to provide easier access to crisis services. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States had one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 14 and 25 to 34. SAMHSA’s 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data shows 4.9 percent of adults 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 0.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among adolescents 12 to 17, 12 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 5.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 2.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. The findings vary by race and ethnicity, with people of mixed ethnicity reporting higher rates of serious thoughts of suicide.

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