The views, opinions, and content expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The FCC’s creation of a national three-digit number for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis is expected to be implemented in July 2022.  As with any new program or technology, there is an anticipated learning curve for the Emergency Communication Center (ECC) as well as the new 988 system.  988 calls for service will be routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and each call will be processed according to the needs of the caller.  988 will have access to the area code and number of the person calling.  They will not be able to access the databases used by PSAPs throughout the country.  The call may need to have emergency services dispatched and in those cases, 988 personnel will have the PSAPs to route the call according to the area code.  One important thing to understand in this process is that it is new and as it rolls out, best practices may change.

The introduction of 988 to the US is a supplement to the tools available to the public as well as the public safety community and has great potential to be a welcome addition.  911 professionals are typically not fully trained to evaluate and assist those individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, although training is available to increase understanding, knowledge, and techniques to handle these incoming calls for service.  The improved service has the potential to reduce police, EMS responses while reducing the Emergency room boarding of individuals who may not need that level of care.

There is grant funding available for States to complete the implementation of 988 and all but two States took the opportunity to apply for those funds.  The new legislation allows for states and localities to implement fees similar to 911 funding mechanisms, thereby offsetting the expenses for implementation and maintenance of the 988 facility.

A workgroup has formed through the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) to help facilitate the integration of 988 into the public safety system.  The workgroup will focus on the operational questions of 988 and the ECC by developing a best practice standard for stakeholders  The first draft standard is expected to be available in July 2022.