988 Mental Health Hotline: Connecting People to Care

RAND researchers Stephanie Brooks Holliday and Ryan K. McBain describe findings from their recent work that examined how prepared states and counties are for the launch of 988, the new mental health emergency hotline.


Ryan K. McBain, Health Policy Researcher

Nearly one in five Americans have a mental health condition of some sort. Whether that's depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, there are many different types of conditions, but in total that adds up to about fifty million people. Only about half of people with mental health conditions have received treatment for those conditions in the previous year.

Stephanie Brooks Holliday, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Behavioral Scientist

988 is the new nationwide mental health emergency hotline. 988 is actually going to tap into the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The launch of 988 is an important milestone for a couple of reasons. First, it is a transition to an easier-to-remember phone number, so the goal is to be able to connect more people with the services that they need. The second reason why the launch of 988 is so important is because counties and regions and states across the country are taking this as an opportunity to reexamine their continuum of mental health emergency services.

Ryan K. McBain

The use of 988 is in part a signal that what is provided in terms of services isn't just suicide prevention. It's also services for other types of emotional distress that people might be experiencing. So, there's a lot of preparation that needs to happen for 988 to operate successfully. So, for example, having trained mental health professionals who are paid and are staffed twenty-four seven at the hotlines. Or, as another example, having people who speak English, Spanish, and other languages so that they can field a range of different callers.

Stephanie Brooks Holliday

The reason that RAND did this study to understand how prepared states and counties are for the launch of 988 is because we think that 988 represents a tremendous opportunity to connect people all over the country who are experiencing mental health emergencies with the care that they need. We think that expanding access is so critical at this point in time, especially when we know that mental health concerns are growing across the country.

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