The Maryland Senate Chamber is decorated with the colors of the Maryland state flag. Photo by Matt Bush.

The Maryland state Senate is likely to take up a bill that will fund the 988 suicide and crisis prevention hotline by $12 million in 2025.

While the federal government doled out more than $280 million nationwide, state officials have been overwhelmed by the need for such services. In Maryland, one state senator who represents a part of Prince George’s County wants to convince other lawmakers and eventually Gov. Wes Moore that spending $12 million more in Maryland from state coffers is worth it for taxpayers.

The proposed bill, sponsored by State Sen. Malcom , a Democrat who represents District 47, would allocate state money into existing crisis call centers, mobile crisis teams, crisis stabilization centers and other behavioral health services.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services, through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, established 988 last year as an easy-to-remember number that anyone nationwide can call in an emergency instead of dialing 911.

While the federal government gave states $105 million to staff the crisis call centers and spent $177 to strengthen and build the infrastructure, Augustine and advocates alike say that’s not enough.

The 200 centers across the nation have been inundated with calls, signaling that some states need to increase their 988 capacity. The federal government also wants states to eventually take over their own hotlines.

“It takes money, it’s a good commitment of money,” Augustine told WYPR. “We want to make sure that we would reduce the amount of time that people would have to wait for the calls.”

Maryland has a call center with 140 agents, as of July 2022.

In November 2022, the hotline was contacted more than 400,000 times nationwide by call, text or chat, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Compared to November 2021, the hotline saw a 38% increase in calls, 289% increase in chats and a 1,227% increase in texts.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.

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