Health Advice



As 988 crisis line sees more use, states debate how to pay for it

Noelle Straub, on

Published in Health & Fitness

(Editor’s note: If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat


Almost everyone agrees that putting money behind the national suicide and crisis hotline is a good thing.

But not everyone thinks a new phone tax is the best way to pay for it.

Since the crisis line’s easy-to-remember 988 number launched last July, its use has increased significantly. The lifeline had 404,194 calls, chats and texts in February alone, an increase of 161,678 contacts over February 2022.

Calls answered increased by 48%, chats answered by 247% and texts by 1,599%. (Some calls went unanswered, either because a caller hung up or there was a technical service interruption.)


An infusion of federal money to the national nonprofit that administers 988 and to local call centers that historically have received little or no federal aid has largely covered the expense of launching the new number and the recent increase in volume. But in the future, state and local governments still will be responsible for funding the local centers where calls are first routed, leaving many budget writers grappling with how to cover the costs as demand increases.

When Congress passed a law in 2020 requiring the Federal Communications Commission to designate 988 as a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline, it also allowed states to enact new telecommunications fees to fund 988 operations. Yet only five states have done so: California, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and Washington.

Six other states have pending legislation that would impose a fee: Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont, according to the education and advocacy nonprofit National Alliance on Mental Illness.

About 20 other states this year have either passed or are considering other 988-related legislation, ranging from providing money for the 988 program or for mobile crisis services to creating a task force or launching a study of potential funding sources, the alliance said.


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