Mental Health Crisis: Call 988 Hotline…and Then What?

A new phone number is being rolled out dedicated to respond to mental health crises in the United States. The number, 988, is meant to connect a person desperately seeking help in a mental health crisis with a trained professional. But there is no guarantee that the funding will be sufficient for anyone to answer their call. In 2020, Congress mandated the 988 system, but provided no funding for phones, computers, staffing, etc. Keep in mind – this same year, the same Congress provided $738 billion for military spending. Even $1 billion of that budget would’ve provided a solid start to help those in dire need.  

Instead, funding is determined by the states. California has passed a bill to provide $20 million to fund this hotline, as have some other states. However, the majority of states have provided no dollars to make this happen.

The 988 system is much needed. In 2020, there were 1.2 million suicide attempts, with nearly 46,000 deaths, making it the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. Without real funding for the system, the rollout of the hotline gives the image that the government is doing something about this crisis, and members of Congress can state they support mental healthcare on their campaign ads.  But the capitalist system, once again, provides an empty plate to the hungry.  With little to no funding, the only silver lining might be that they won’t have the funds to pay for the irritating hold music with an occasional recorded message, “Your call is important to us.”

As always, working people will only get what they organize and fight for.