Readout of Office of Justice Programs Meeting With Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Leaders to Promote the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
This week, the Bureau of Justice Assistance hosted a meeting with national law enforcement and behavioral health experts to discuss strategies for raising awareness of the national 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline among public safety stakeholders. Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon joined BJA Director Karhlton F. Moore, National Institute of Justice Director Nancy La Vigne and other federal and national leaders in addressing participants.
The 988 Lifeline was launched last July as an easy-to-remember way to reach trained counselors who are available 24/7 to provide support for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress. 988 provides access to crisis resources and is distinct from 911, which dispatches emergency medical, fire and law enforcement services. BJA hosted this week’s forecasting group meeting in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration—SAMHSA—and the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The meeting was designed to identify and address questions about how public safety partners can best support 988 as part of a continuum of crisis response and services.
“In the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, we have an opportunity to lift a substantial burden from the shoulders of law enforcement and entrust the care of people in behavioral health crisis to the professionals who are trained for that purpose,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Solomon. “Our goal is to help communities expand their continuum of crisis support and, ultimately, reach a point at which intervention by behavioral health providers is the norm.”
Last year, OJP awarded more than $44 million to help communities address behavioral health crises. Grants from BJA’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program and its Connect and Protect initiative support partnerships between justice system officials; health, mental health and substance use professionals; and community providers to reduce arrests, divert individuals from the justice system and deliver the appropriate treatment and other support services to those in need. Prior to last summer’s launch of 988, BJA released a brief for law enforcement describing the lifeline and explaining its utility.
The federal government has invested nearly $1 billion in the 988 Lifeline in recent years to support the 988 transition, build network capacity and provide specialized services, including a sub-network for Spanish language speakers. Since the transition to 988 in July, the 988 Lifeline has received more than 2.1 million calls, texts and chats. Calls answered increased by 43%, chats increased by 224%, and texts increased by 1145% compared to the same timeframe in 2021, and the average time to answer across all contacts decreased from 2 minutes and 46 seconds to 49 seconds.
Joining OJP leadership at the meeting were Monica Johnson, Director of the 988 and Behavioral Health Crisis Coordinating Office at SAMHSA, and Dr. Ayesha Delany-Brumley, Director of Behavioral Health at the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
About the Office of Justice Programs
The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance, and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law.
More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.