Policy Pulse: Are we ready for 988? | The Kennedy Forum

Policy Pulse: Are we ready for 988?
July 15, 2022

The Promise of 988 Is Real. Can States Like California Set the Bar?

Tomorrow, the new 988 crisis line for mental health and substance use emergencies goes live across the country. Approximately one year ago, The Kennedy Forum shared an analysis of state legislative action needed to support 988 by the national go-live date. At the time, only Colorado, Nevada, and Washington had passed adequate legislation to facilitate 988 implementation (i.e. having a comprehensive plan for a full behavioral health crisis continuum and ongoing funding to see the systems—call centers staffed by mental health professionals, mobile response teams, and crisis stabilization services—built out). Unfortunately, no other states have been added to this list to date. As it stands now, less than 8% (24.7 million) of the population are in states that have passed needed legislation.

A deeper dive into state activity

Eighteen states have introduced 988 fee legislation that have not moved forward. Some bills have set fee amounts that are insufficient to fund needed services, while others have been downgraded to “study bills” or unfunded 988 “processes.”

Between February and July of 2022, five states had 988 fees actively stripped out of their bills in part because telecom companies opposed the funding mechanism the federal government authorized, which would allow them to pass a “user fee” on phone lines that would fund comprehensive implementation of 988.

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Related our policy advisor, Lauren Finke recently spoke with Roll Call about this topic. Read the story here.