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Maryland bill beefs up funding for 988 hotline

It requires Maryland Gov. Wes Moore to put $12 million into the budget for the hotline in 2025.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The 988 suicide prevention and crisis lifeline is getting more funding thanks to the first bill passed in Maryland's senate. 

The bill is sponsored Sen. Malcolm Augustine of Prince George's County and has several cosponsors. It requires Maryland Gov. Wes Moore to put $12 million into the budget for the hotline in 2025.

The United States’ first nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline went live in July. It’s designed to be as easy to remember and use as 911, but instead of a dispatcher sending police, firefighters or paramedics, 988 will connect callers with trained mental health counselors.

The federal government has provided over $280 million to help states create systems that will do much more, including mobile mental health crisis teams that can be sent to people’s homes and emergency mental health centers, similar to urgent care clinics that treat physical aches and pains.

“This is one of the most exciting things that has happened” in mental health care, said Dr. Brian Hepburn, a psychiatrist who heads the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, when the number went live. 

In Maryland, lawmakers created a trust fund to pay for the hot line's operation. According to the Fund Maryland 988 Campaign, call volume to 988 has increased 40% nationwide since July 2022.

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