Recently discharged from a behavioral health facility, a patient with mental illness experiences a crisis in public. Someone calls 911. Police officers arrive but lack the specialized training and experience to de-escalate.

A teenager who has endured months of bullying from classmates on social media fails a test at school. The grade prompts thoughts of suicide.

Exhausted and overwhelmed, a parent feels on the verge of a breakdown. They know they need help before they hurt themselves or their family.

These and a host of other mental health scenarios are common across the United States. They also illustrate the need to improve how people find and access needed services and support.

That’s the vision for 988 — to provide a single, simple hotline for connecting people with behavioral health resources.

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Currently, there is little coordination of such resources across the public and private sectors. In fact, unless you have firsthand experience navigating the behavioral health ecosystem, you may not realize how challenging it can be. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why, according to Mental Health America, more than half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. That represents over 27 million adults in the U.S. going untreated.

Several forces are converging to change that. The first is a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate that states adopt 988 as the three-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 2022. The second is a variety of new state laws focused on behavioral health, including the 988 mandate. And the third is American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funding, which is available to support expansion of mental health services.  

The State of Michigan is leading the way in harnessing these forces and actively working to improve coordination of mental healthcare. Working with Michigan, Accenture has developed an innovative system for meeting the 988 mandate and improving statewide coordination of behavioral health services.

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50+

Adults with mental illness who do not receive treatment (Source: Mental Health America)

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16x

Likelihood of someone with mental illness being shot by the police vs. other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement (Source: Treatment Advocacy Center)

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60+

Youth with major depression who do not receive any mental health treatment (Source: Mental Health America)

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The Accenture Behavioral Health Solution facilitates omnichannel communication between state agencies, mental health providers and individuals calling for help. It works by using the same tools and technologies that leading companies and brands use to engage and support their customers. And because the solution is powered by cloud-based technology, Accenture can help implement it in six to eight weeks. From there, it’s possible to extend and enhance it to address additional needs.

The initial rollout covers two of Michigan’s 10 regions. According to the system dashboard, as of April 4 the system has supported nearly 55,000 interactions with people seeking help. The Michigan Crisis and Access Line (MiCAL) uses voice, text, chat and the Web to address two areas critical to improving outcomes:

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Accelerating referrals

Providing behavioral health professionals with consolidated information on available hospital beds, specialized counseling programs and other services, as well as helping people in need connect with those resources.

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Automating follow-up

Staying in touch via chatbot to make sure people have been successful in accessing the care they need.

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These are just two examples of how the solution can help coordinate resources and connect people with the help they require. Although the mental health crisis in the United States isn’t something we can solve overnight, investing in 988 can be a critical first step.

Let me know what you think and let’s connect on LinkedIn.

This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors. This document refers to marks owned by third parties.  All such third-party marks are the property of their respective owners.  No sponsorship, endorsement or approval of this content by the owners of such marks is intended, expressed or implied.

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Pawel Walczuk

Senior Manager – Public Service, Behavioral Health Lead, North America