One Mental Health Hotline: How is Your State Addressing the 988 Mandate?

By Pawel Walczuk    August 11, 2022

The United States continues to navigate a mental health crisis. Mental Health America’s report, 2022: The State of Mental Health in America, provides a snapshot of the scope and scale of the challenges:

  • In 2019, nearly one in five Americans experienced a mental illness.
  • About one-quarter of adults with a mental illness report an unmet need for treatment.
  • While about 15% of adolescents experienced a major depressive episode in the past year, over 60% of them don’t get treatment for their depression.

If you have firsthand experience with your own or a loved one’s mental illness, you probably know how difficult it can be to access care. The U.S. behavioral health ecosystem is large and complex, with little coordination of resources across the public and private sectors.

Whether in crisis or managing an ongoing condition, people with mental illness need faster, more reliable, and more convenient access to needed services and support. That’s the vision for 988 to provide one nationwide hotline for connecting people with behavioral health resources in their local communities.

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate required states to adopt 988 as the three-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July of this year. At the same time, a variety of new state laws are focusing on behavioral health, including the 988 mandate. Further, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funding is now available to support expansion of mental health services. In other words, there is significant momentum for improving coordination of behavioral health services.

How can your state use 988 to improve coordination of care?

Each state needs to decide how it will address the FCC mandate. Some have recognized the mandate as a crucial opportunity to transform the way they coordinate mental health care.

For example, the State of Michigan is leading the way in using 988 to improve coordination of mental health care. Working with Michigan, Accenture has developed an innovative system for meeting the 988 mandate and improving statewide coordination of behavioral health services.

The Accenture Behavioral Health Solution facilitates omnichannel communication between state agencies, mental health providers, and individuals calling for help. It relies on the same tools and technologies that leading companies and brands use to engage and support their customers. And because the solution is powered by cloud-based technology, a state can implement core functionality in as little as six to eight weeks. From there, it’s possible to extend and enhance the solution to address additional needs.

According to the system dashboard, as of July 5, the system has supported nearly 80,000 interactions with people seeking help. The Michigan Crisis and Access Line (MiCAL) uses voice, text, chat, and the Web to address two areas critical to improving outcomes:

Accelerating referrals—that is, providing behavioral health professionals with consolidated information on available hospital beds, specialized counseling programs, and other services, as well as helping people in need connect with those resources.

Automating follow-up—that is, staying in touch via chatbot to make sure people have been successful in accessing the care they need.

These are just two examples of how thoughtfully configured technology can help coordinate resources and connect people with the help they need. Although no one can solve the behavioral health crisis in the United States overnight, investing in a robust 988 capability for your state can be a critical first step.

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About the Author

Pawel Walczuk

Senior Manager, Applied Intelligence Practice

One Mental Health Hotline: How is Your State Addressing the 988 Mandate?

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