Legislative Update

Electronic Fall 2022  |  Issue 52

State Legislative Update
By: Mark Peysakhovich
IPS Legislative Consultant

National 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline Goes Live To Save Lives Across Illinois

The Illinois Psychiatric Society is celebrating the roll out of the new 988 number in Illinois. This service, provided by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, has been in operation since 2005. Now, it’s available nationwide via a three-digit dialing code – 988 – making it easier for those in crisis to get the help they need. Converting to this easy-to-remember number offers the public increased access to potentially lifesaving, trained crisis counselors. Over the last two years, the funding and implementation of 988 in Illinois has been a top advocacy priority for IPS. 

Nationally, utilization of the new number rose dramatically since it went live in mid-July. Recently released data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicate that this August, the first full month of 988 operations, the Lifeline had a 45% increase in the total number of calls, texts and chats across the U.S. compared to the same period the year before. Illinois providers participating in the program are also seeing substantial increases in utilization.

The Illinois Department of Human Services’ (IDHS) Division of Mental Health worked with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to roll out the new 988 service throughout the state. State and federal funding sources were tapped to increase staffing at Illinois’ six existing 988 call centers to ensure that calls are answered in-state. Specifically, in addition to federal government funding, Governor Pritzker committed nearly $15 million to bolster Illinois’ statewide 988 Crisis Response. IPS will continue to advocate for resources to ensure this service is sustainable in Illinois over the long term.

“Thanks to the many incredible counselors answering the call to serve those in crisis, the expanded 988 Lifeline number will help save many lives,” said Governor JB Pritzker in a statement. “To any Illinois resident who might be struggling, know that you are not alone. We are here to support you. You can receive help by dialing or texting 988.”

“The Governor was clear that we needed a stronger effort to support mental health in Illinois,” added Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace B. Hou. “The launch of 988 will help people across the state prevent mental health crises from escalating into emergencies.”

According to the IDHS, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young adults ages 15-34 in Illinois and fourth leading cause of death for those ages 35-44. Overall, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the state.

“The pandemic has had an impact on stress levels and mental health across the board,” noted Dr. David Albert, Director, Division of Mental Health, IDHS. “This is an effort to increase access to vital crisis services, improve the efficacy of suicide prevention efforts, and overcome the stigma around getting help. This will bolster the crisis care continuum in Illinois, better connecting people in crisis with call takers trained in suicide prevention, crisis de-escalation and stabilization.”

Illinois State Senator Laura Fine, a leader on behavioral health issues in the Illinois General Assembly, said, “The past two plus years have been an overwhelming time for many Illinoisans, and some feel like they are struggling alone. 988 is an expanded resource to assist people experiencing mental health issues. I encourage anyone feeling anxious or depressed to dial 988 for local support. A caring voice or a listening ear can make all the difference during times of stress.”

“If you want to help someone experiencing a crisis- you can call or text 988 for free and confidential support,” noted Illinois State Representative Fran Hurley, a leading proponent of 988 in the Illinois House of Representatives. “Across Illinois, too many lives have been lost to suicide. 988 provides lifesaving support to individuals experiencing mental health crises and I’m proud to have co-sponsored the legislation that helped make this resource available for residents in urgent need.”

People in mental health crisis or emotional distress can call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Those who are not in crisis but who are seeking treatment options for mental health conditions can visit 988hotline.illinois.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
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