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Dr. David Webster, M.D., MBA, Chief Clinical and Provider Strategy Officer

988 Mental Health Awareness National Hotline

U.S. federal government is rolling out a new and simplified suicide prevention and substance abuse hotline number.

On July 16 the U.S. government will launch the new 988 service, which works in a similar manner to how people dial 911 when in any kind of emergency, this three-digit number will connect people via call, text, and chat with trained counselors from the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

At Medica, we are committed to serving as a trusted health and well-being resource for our members and communities. That starts by keeping you informed on important topics like this one, and broadly sharing what services delivered by our clinical teams – in this case our Medica's Behavioral Health professionals.

Mental health is a national crisis

The pandemic, a troubling economy, war in Ukraine, racial disparities, and the struggles of everyday life. There is little wonder that anxiety and depression surround us.

The numbers are heart-wrenching:

  • Every 11 minutes, someone takes their life in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among children between 15 and 19 years old
  • It's the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

The situation has become so dire for America's youth, especially, that the U.S. Surgeon General last December issued an advisory on the need to address the nation's youth mental health crisis.

More recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a call for screening of all adolescents for suicide risk.

Communities coming together

In addition to this necessary new resource, others are approaching the mental health crisis in bold and creative ways. Minnesota Timberwolves player Karl-Anthony Towns and Minnesota Lynx player Kayla McBride have talked publicly about their struggles with mental health. Legislatures in states as near as Iowa have introduced measures that would allow mental health days for students, which function much in the same way as paid time off days for those in the workforce.

Our dedicated Medica Behavioral Health teams support members in crisis with programs that simplify and increase access to mental health providers.

Here are a few examples:

  • Medical Behavioral Integration (MBI) provides assistance for those who also have a chronic health condition
  • Family Support Program provides clinical expertise and care navigation support to caregivers of children with complex mental health needs
  • Family Support Navigator is an interactive online tool that helps parents and caregivers find the right resources for children who may have autism or depression
  • Behavioral Health Crisis Line – which supplements the 988 number – allows people to reach out to a counselor in times of stress and anxiety 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost.

Regarding the 988 roll out, Medica Behavioral Health clinicians are trained to collaborate with both 911 and 988 emergency responders and county mobile crisis teams.

This new initiative is too important to fail

The time has come to put a greater emphasis on the mental health crisis. The 988 effort is an important and promising advancement in helping people get access to urgent mental healthcare.