Readout of External Convening on 988 State-Level Plans, Featuring Remarks from Secretary Becerra

On Thursday, March 24, 2022, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra delivered remarks on the importance of the 988-suicide prevention line before 500+ leaders and public partners; 911 centers and emergency medical providers; crisis centers; and behavioral health providers, as HHS encourages states to step up planning for an official July launch. Participants included representatives from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors.

The implementation of 988, which becomes operational on July 16, 2022, marks a significant step forward in strengthening access to care for 39 million Americans who experience suicidal, mental health, and substance use challenges each year.

Secretary Becerra emphasized the importance of continued collaboration and urged everyone to “all work together and lift one another up – so there is no weak link in this chain.” He said, “we want people to think of 988 as a place to go for those who need it in a moment of crisis.” The Secretary, joined by Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Assistant Secretary, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and other leaders from the SAMHSA team, thanked participants for all they are doing, committed to do, and aspire to do in this space.

John Palmieri, Medical Advisor, Acting Director 988, SAMHSA, spotlighted the importance of support and resources for communities particularly at high risk of suicide, including veterans, LGBTQIA+ youth, and people in rural areas.

This convening builds on the momentum of last month’s virtual gathering, and on efforts that have been underway since fall of 2021 to unite the behavioral health field through a series of national convenings to harmonize and inform 988 implementation efforts.

Strengthening behavioral health is a top priority for both the Department and the Biden-Harris Administration’s Unity Agenda. Furthermore, this meeting coincides with the day’s spotlight on Celebrating Mental Health and Substance Use Support, as part of HHS’s week-long celebration of the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (March 21-25, 2022).

It is also part of Secretary Becerra’s National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health, an initiative to engage directly with Americans across the country to address their behavioral health challenges and work with local leaders to strengthen the mental health and crisis care system in our communities.

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