THURSDAY, Sept. 28, 2023 (HealthDay News) — The Biden administration is allocating $232.2 million in grants to help stem suicides and improve behavioral health care for at-risk groups.
Suicide is happening at an “alarming” rate, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Last year alone, nearly 50,000 Americans died by suicide, up 2.6 percent from 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About $200 million of the grant will be used to build local capacity for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and related crisis services. The national suicide hotline was revamped last year with a three-digit number to make it easier to recall in a crisis.
“September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. During this month, we are reminded that suicide is preventable, and no one should go through a suicide-related crisis alone,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in an agency news release, emphasizing that the Biden administration “is deeply committed to tackling the mental health challenges facing America, and particularly focused on addressing the alarming rates of suicide.”
In all, $177 million is targeted to improvements in technology and security, as well as hiring and training crisis counselors. Another $18.3 million will be used to improve response to 988 contacts from American Indian or Alaska Native populations, including what HHS described as “culturally competent” support. An additional $5 million is targeted for follow-up with those who have called for help.
Other funds are earmarked to foster improved coordination between call center staffers and emergency services operators, with an aim of reducing the burden on police. Funding for suicide prevention efforts aimed at college-age people, older adults, and those who live in rural areas is also included. Those in rural areas often have more access to guns.
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