There is broad agreement that current systems in the United States for responding to individuals in crisis not only do not work but have resulted in death. Jails are crowded with people who often have not even been accused of a crime but await psychiatric evaluation. Emergency departments cannot cope with the number of people seeking psychiatric or behavioral care for crisis and sometimes resort to “warehousing” of patients or even turning them away.
Many police officers feel that they are ill equipped to handle mental health crises and would rather focus on dangerous crime. Likewise, individuals in crisis and their loved ones cannot find meaningful help, often resulting in prolonged suffering, homelessness, and self-medication.
On July 16, a once-in-a-generation change is being launched regarding how America responds to people experiencing mental health or substance use crises. For the first time, they and their loved ones will be able to seek help through a simple, easy-to-remember number: 988.
And then what? Who will respond? Where will people go if they need more help?