US to provide $35 million in grants to tribes for 988 mental health crisis line


Lance Neiberger, a volunteer with the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force, displays a children’s bookmark with the emergency phone number 988 suicide and life crisis, as they talk about mental health and awareness to suicide

Most residents of Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico know each other. So when a tribal member needs mental health services or addiction help, calling a tribal office can lead to an aunt, cousin, or other relative.

Confidentiality is important, Pueblo Governor Michael Chavarria said shortly after federal officials visited to talk about new grant funding available to tribes to publicize a national health crisis hotline. mental.

“It’s the hesitation, but again they have to be strong enough to want to get that help,” Chavarria said on Friday. “And that’s what we’re here for, to help them as best we can.”

The 988 Lifeline went live in June. It’s designed to be an easy-to-remember number, similar to 911. Instead of the dispatcher dispatching police, firefighters, or paramedics, 988 connects callers with trained mental health counselors. People can also text the number or chat with counselors online.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that it is making $35 million in grants available to Native American and Alaska Native tribes to ensure callers receive culturally appropriate support as well as health care. follow-up if necessary. The deadline to apply is October 25.

The range will be limited, a fact often criticized by tribes who say they have to compete for limited resources. Any of the 574 federally recognized tribes are eligible, as well as tribal organizations. Up to 100 scholarships will be awarded.

The funding is part of $150 million earmarked for the 988 hotline in a gun violence and mental health bill that President Joe Biden signed into law in June. Overall, the federal government provided $432 million to expand the network of crisis counselors and telephone infrastructure, and help educate the public about the 988 hotline – some of which was available for states and territories in the form of grants.

Chavarria said the Tribal Police Chief plans to meet with other tribal departments soon to discuss the grant application and what it might cover.

“Right now, we just don’t know,” he said. “That’s the planning phase we’re in right now. At least that’s granted. It’s about how to leverage that with the other resources we have, fill in the gaps.”

Chavarria sees a need due to social isolation caused by COVID-19 and the pueblo being in New Mexico, a state that has some of the highest death rates from alcohol and drug overdoses. Native Americans and Alaska Natives are also disproportionately affected by violent crime and suicide, according to federal data.

“It has to be a well-balanced collaborative effort to put a stop to that,” Chavarria said. “Because sometimes it just spins in that family and the extended family in the community, locally, regionally and nationally. It’s a difficult issue for all of us.”

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at health and human services, was among federal officials who visited the pueblos of Santa Clara and Jemez, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, this week.

She said some of the challenges she heard from tribal leaders in accessing funding included a lack of resources to apply for grants, unreliable internet and cellphone services and a general shortage of health specialists. mental health and culturally appropriate care.

“What we appreciated was that we had candid discussions,” Delphin-Rittmon said. “We encourage them and thank them when they push us, and that helps. I think that really helps that there’s understanding.”

There’s no guarantee that funds will be available in the future to raise awareness about 988 because it’s appropriate through Congress, Delphin-Rittmon said. Tribes also have funding opportunities through other federal grant programs for training in emergency response, overdose prevention and mental health, she said.

The gauge of whether funding is working as planned is not just numbers, she said, but anecdotal evidence from tribes.

The 988 system is built on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a network of crisis centers where counselors answer millions of calls each year. The 1-800-273-8255 number still works, even with 988 in place.

The first full month of data from the 988 Lifeline in August showed an increase of 152,000 calls, chats and texts compared to August 2021. The average time to respond to these contacts increased from 2.5 minutes to 42 seconds, according to Health and Human Services.


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