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Bill to fund 988 crisis helpline heads to Governor's desk

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

A bill establishing dedicated funding for the state’s new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline passed the state Senate Wednesday.

The line was launched in mid-2022, created by federal legislation.

This bill establishes a 60-cent per month, per line, fee on phone lines and a one time, 60-cent fee on prepaid services. The money will go to a Behavioral Health Crisis Intervention Services Fund used to support the line and provide a plan for integrated services.

State Senator Eric Buckson expressed concerns about the surcharge and its impact on corporations with multiple phone lines. But co-sponsor Sen. Nicole Poore says Delaware is currently ill-prepared to handle the federally mandated service.

“We anticipate the 988 call volume to increase at least 65% in the next five years," Poore says. "Which means that will be 39,600 contacts, that equates to 3,300 calls per month. We need to make sure that we have the funding to support this.”

She notes the implementation of 911 in the 1990’s also created a surcharge, which has never increased.

The bill also creates a 20-member board made up of state health officials, behavioral health experts, medical professionals, law enforcement and others, tasked with developing a comprehensive statewide crisis intervention services plan.

The bill now heads to Gov. John Carney’s desk.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.