State Invests To Expand Mental Health Crisis 988 Lifeline System

By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently created the nationwide three-digit dialing code, 988, for mental health crisis and suicide prevention. In light of the number’s first anniversary, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration has allocated $31.4 million in investments to expand the state’s 988 lifeline system.  

According to the New Jersey Department of Human Services, 988 “connects people to the existing National Suicide  Prevention Lifeline [where] compassionate, accessible care and support will be available for anyone experiencing  mental health-related distress, thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis.”  

The millions of dollars allocated for the investment come from the FY2024 budget. For the noteworthy investment,  $10 million in state funding will go towards helping the 988 Lifeline centers in the state expand capacity, and $3  million will be allocated towards a public awareness campaign. Commissioner Adelman announced the investment  allocation during Rutgers University’s Behavioral Health Center event.  

“Mental health care matters, and in New Jersey, we are making every effort to make it easier for people to get the  help they need,” said Commissioner Adelman.  

At this event, Commissioner Adelman, among many others, spoke about their work, goals for 988 and brainstormed  ideas for how the state can increase supporting efforts to relieve the mental health crisis.  

More specifically, the investment will help 988 Lifeline Centers increase staff and expand technology. With a new  awareness campaign and increased funds, 988 will receive money to manage better the anticipated volume of calls,  chats, and texts. If any money remains after these efforts, it will go towards developing mobile crisis outreach response teams. Response teams work with 988 Lifeline Centers and respond to all non-life-threatening crises.  

According to the Department of Human Services, data shows that Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to  feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to a crisis counselor.  

The additional $3 million allocated towards raising awareness through campaigns will include 988 ads on billboards,  New Jersey Transit buses, trains, and bus shelters. Additionally, the campaign will consist of digital and social media  ads and ads on game-day programs for the Jets, Giants, Eagles, and Rutgers football, as well as 988 posters displayed in less conventional areas to target hard-to-reach populations.  

“We recognize how important it is for people experiencing these types of crises to connect with someone who is  specifically trained to de-escalate crisis situations and offer support,” added Commissioner Adelman.  “Ramping up our public awareness campaign  will help widen our reach so all New Jerseyans will know that in a moment of crisis, 988 is the go-to for immediate  help.” 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1,112,000 adults in New Jersey have a mental health condition. The 988 number is currently receiving between 4,500 to 5,000 calls per month.  

Anyone is allowed and encouraged to utilize 988, as they offer live calls in English and Spanish and 250 other languages through a language line service. 988 is available through chat and texting, which is available in English and  Spanish. Additionally, 988 offers TTY services and is developing video phone service for American Sign Language  users.  

If anyone is experiencing thoughts of suicide or mental health or substance use crises, trained counselors are avail able 24 hours a day, seven days a week, waiting to help. 

The New Jersey Department of Human Services is constantly working on improving mental health in the state. The  Department is currently developing Crisis Receiving and Stabilization Centers to provide community-based services  in a facility designed to meet the immediate needs of people experiencing a suicidal, mental health, or substance use  crisis.  

“We are working to expand our 988 system so more New Jerseyans can get immediate help, and the most appropriate care when experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis,” said Assistant Commissioner Valerie Mielke, who heads the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. 

If you are worried about yourself or a loved one who may need crisis support, the New Jersey Department of Human  Services encourages you to dial 988.  

Text 988, and chat to 988 at or call 988 or 1-800-237-8255 anytime.  For more information about mental health from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, click here.  To learn more about the 988 number, click here, or to learn national information about 988, click here. 

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