In 2020, Congress approved a new free 24/7 crisis phone number for behavioral health crisis needs nationwide. Beginning July 16, 2022 instead of dialing 911, emergency calls can be placed to 988 for urgent help in a time of mental health, substance use crisis, or even witnessing another person experiencing a behavioral health challenge.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) envisions 988 as a first step toward a transformed national crisis care system. The service is meant to be a universal entry point to a trained crisis counselor.
Locally, staff with Buckelew Programs, based in Novato, operate the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and will receive 988 calls, quickly evaluate the emergency, and utilize trained crisis counselors to provide an appropriate intervention. Urgent calls requiring an in-person mobile crisis response will be directed to clinical staff in the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) division.