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The rollout of a new mental health crisis line for the entire U.S. is scheduled to happen on July 16 — the blink of an eye in bureaucratic time. People in mental health crises or their family members will soon be able to dial 988, instead of 911 or the harder-to-remember 800-273-8255 (the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). The thinking is that calls to 988 will route people to the care they need instead of to law enforcement or emergency personnel with limited training in working with people in the midst of mental health crises.

The new number has been in the works for several years, and the technology is there. Still, only a handful of states have supported it structurally and financially. This week on the “First Opinion Podcast,” Benjamin Miller probes at some more concerns: Who will be answering the calls? And does the system have the capacity to take care of callers right away?


988 represents “an opportunity to really raise the standards of what should be expected when it comes to mental health and suicide prevention and crisis in general,” said Miller.

This conversation emerged from Miller’s First Opinion essay, “Not going all in on the 988 hotline will ensure its failure.” Miller is the is the president of the Well Being Trust and chair of the advisory board of Inseparable, two leading mental health organizations.

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