|Dear Community of Hope,
Looking ahead 2022 must feel very much like 1967 to those who pioneered today’s emergency medical response system. In 1966, the National Academy of Sciences published “Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society,” which called for better coordination and communication, ambulance service and ED capacity, and “no wrong door” access. They pointed out the contradiction of receiving better emergency medical care as a US military on the front lines as compared with the streets at home, and the first 911 call was answered on a red phone in an Alabama police station early in 1968.
On July 16, we’ll officially launch the nation’s behavioral health and suicide crisis line in 988. In an unprecedented partnership with state leaders, SAMHSA is moving forward to strengthen the Lifeline network and transform a broader crisis continuum. Like 911 did for emergency medical care, 988 will create a cascading impact in expectations. Not only someone to call, but someone to come to you (mobile crisis), and someplace to go (crisis receiving facilities) if needed. SAMHSA published the core components in their National Guidelines in 2020, and we’ll see the vision breathe life in 2022.
It took decades for the quick response ambulances and easy access hospital EDs to reach the majority of Americans calling 911. As late as 1980, John Lennon was transported to the hospital in the back of a police car, despite being shot multiple times in New York City. And, even today, our access for those living in federally designated frontier areas and many tribal communities lag. We must act urgently to deploy the life-saving and supporting crisis care services that will be required by 988 callers.
David W. Covington, LPC, MBA
CEO & President, RI International
PICTURED ABOVE: RI’s State Director Lysha Best in the Baton Rouge Bridge Center for Hope Crisis Recovery Center, which has served nearly 2,500 individuals in its first year, with one-third direct law enforcement drop-offs by-passing the delays of traditional “medical clearance” in a hospital ED