988 became the national number of mental health emergencies on July 16, 2022
9-8-8 is intended to be an alternative to calling 9-1-1 in a mental health or substance use crisis.
"Someone to talk to" is a 24x7 call center with specially trained staff that focuses on resolution and solutions, not dispatch. Unlike a call to 911, where the purpose is dispatch, calling 988 gets you to a counselor, clinician or peer support specialist who will talk with you or your loved one to better understand the situation. Police are not called unless there is an imminent risk. Four states have had this system for as much as 20 years. Most report < 1% of the time involving police and less that 0.01% of the time sending anyone without permission.
"Someone to respond" are Mobile Crisis Teams (MCT) - a non-police response. These teams are typically clinicians (like social workers) and Certified Peer Support specialist. Like the team on the phone, they focus on helping the person determine what is best for them. Make a plan with you. Sometimes that's easier with someone you can see. MCT's are typically sent by request of the person calling.
"Somewhere to go" is usually a Crisis Stabilization Unit where folks can stay up to 72 hours. There are Barca-loungers and no locked door. The staff is similar to MCT - social workers, clinicians and Certified Peer Support specialist. This team is there for you and your loved one. To help get connected to the best service for you. That might be a Peer Respite or a Living Room or it might be an outpatient appointment. As much as possible, people remain in the community. They most definitely don't go to jail and they don't go to emergency rooms.
Four states have been doing this for a long time: AZ, CO, GA, LA.
DIdi Hirsch - a provider in LA County, CA is currently answering 96% of phone calls on the phone. That means they are only sending a MCT in 4% of their calls!