Re: “Letter to the editor: Maine must fund 988, crisis response services” (May 1):

The 988 Line has been designated nationally as a new, easy-to-remember dialing, texting and chat code for anyone experiencing a suicidal or mental health crisis. Maine is joining other states in preparing to launch the 988 system by July, representing a significant step toward strengthening our state mental health crisis response systems. Once the service is “live,” 988 callers will be connected to trained crisis counselors who can provide free, confidential emotional support, screening or referrals or dispatch a mobile crisis team.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has been collaborating with federal, national and statewide partners since March 2021 to plan for successfully implementing the new 988 system in Maine. Over 60 representatives from across the spectrum of Maine’s mental health crisis services – providers; emergency first responders/911, and members of diverse communities such as deaf and hard of hearing, people with lived experience and more – have tackled key issues such as increasing operating capacity at Maine’s 988 call center and the critical connection between 911 and 988 services.

In alignment with this plan, Maine DHHS has invested $450,000 to support the implementation of 988 and over $10 million in crisis system services for the upcoming fiscal term. Together, financial support and collaborative partnerships will help ensure that people in crisis have someone to call, someone to respond and a safe place to go for crisis care.

Until 988 is active, anyone experiencing a mental health or suicide-related crisis, or those looking to help a loved one, should continue to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Maine Crisis Line at 1-888-568-1112.

Sarah Squirrell
acting director, Office of Behavioral Health, Maine Department of Health and Human Services


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