Local Suppliers Rise to 988 Lifeline’s Challenges, Says Manager

WASHINGTON — Local outpatient psychiatric providers are doing well in the face of increased demand for the new nationwide “988” Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, despite fear they are not readyaccording to a senior administration official.

“States and call centers across the country have absolutely ramped up the increased volume that we’ve seen,” the official said Thursday evening during a briefing on the distribution of federal grants to bolster mental health services in the schools. “We can see a 45% increase in the volume of calls received in the week of the launch, compared to the previous week, across the country – 23,000 additional calls, texts and chats made across the country. rope of security.”

Concerns abound that local governments are not ready to handle the increased volume. A recent study by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found that nearly half of counties do not have a crisis response team, which is recommended for responding to the 10-20% of calls for assistance that do not cannot be handled adequately over the phone.

The briefing was held to announce steps the Biden administration is taking to increase funding for mental health services in schools. Actions include:

Allocating nearly $300 million to expand mental health services in schools and increase the pool of mental health professionals. Funding comes from both the bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) and the FY2022 Omnibus Spending Bill. It includes two programs: the Demonstration Grant Program for Health Service Professionals Mental Health, which will provide $140 million this year to prepare mental health care providers for school-based jobs; and the School Mental Health Services Grant Program, which distributes more than $140 million to states and school districts so they can increase the number of school mental health service providers, including school psychologists, counselors and other mental health professionals. “Some schools will gain mental health staff for the first time [while] others will see this essential workforce increase,” according to a White House Fact Sheet.

Connecting students to trauma-related services. “Young people have been particularly affected by the trauma of COVID,” the fact sheet notes. “Over the next few weeks, [HHS] will begin evaluating applications to award nearly $7 million for educational activities designed to help students access evidence-based, culturally relevant trauma supports and mental health care… The Announcements awards will be made this fall. Grant funds will help create partnerships that connect school systems with local trauma-informed mental health and support systems to provide services to students in need. »

Encourage governors to invest more in school mental health services, including through the Medicaid program. The Department of Education “will continue its historic work with the Department of Health and Human Services to release guidance on improving the use of Medicaid to support the delivery of mental health services to students,” said an administration official during the briefing. “We will aim to streamline the process by which districts can access and use Medicaid, and save time accurately billing for services, ensuring more claims are approved and mental health service costs are recoverable. .” Asked when the guidelines might be released, the official said they would likely appear in 6-8 weeks.

Additionally, over the next 5 years, BSCA will provide $60 million to HHS to train primary care residents in prevention, treatment, and referral to services for children’s mental and behavioral health issues. and teenagers. The BSCA also includes $150 million for the implementation of the 988 lifeline.

In addition, other funding will be announced soon. “Resolving our nation’s mental health crisis is a top priority for the president and this administration,” another official said on the call. “Over the summer and fall, the administration will be pushing hard on mental health…You can expect more announcements and guidance to come out in the coming weeks.”

  • Joyce Frieden oversees MedPage Today’s coverage in Washington, including stories about Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, professional health associations and federal agencies. She has 35 years of experience in health policy. Follow

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