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By: Ashley Rose

Staff writer/Photographer

   In 2018, it was found by the Treatment Advocacy Center that people with mental illnesses are sixteen times more likely to be killed by law enforcement. Statistics like these are what inspired Congress to provide funding through the American Rescue Plan to support the 988 workforce.

   988, similar to 911, is an emergency lifeline call center, but instead of a call resulting in the presence of police force, a mental health professional or social worker could be sent to handle the situation. 988 is expected to have a major positive impact on the safety of those who are having a mental health crisis or in handling the event of someone with a disability. 

   For Indiana to experience the positive changes from 988, the Indiana senate needs to accept the funding that would allow professionals to be trained to work for 988. 

   Social work majors Guadalupe Carmona, Alexis Issette, Anna Roberts, and Rachel Wright are  four IU South Bend students advocating for 988. While this advocacy is not affiliated with IU South Bend directly, these students are using their own individual social media platforms, as well as creating new ones, to educate others about the need for 988. 

   The social media page can be found on Instagram as @the988project. Here, these students have posted introductions about who they are and why 988 is important to them, as well as educating followers on what 988 is and how it would benefit Indiana. They found using Instagram was a great way to read a large amount of people at once, while giving bits of digestible information over time. 

   “The establishment of a 988 crisis number and the creation of crisis intervention teams is critical to keeping our communities healthy,” said Roberts. Research in 2017 by the Ruderman Foundation found that one third to one half of people killed by police officers had a disability. 

   On top of trained professionals being sent to aid these situations, long term stabilization programs can be created to benefit individuals on a more long term scale.

   “The 988 hotline would shift some of the responsibilities of police officers to the hands of social workers who are more properly equipped to handle situations involving mental health crises,” said Issette. 

   988, also known as senate bill 345, will go live nationally in July of 2022 to any states who pass the bill. Within their scope of education, The 988 Project wants to encourage individuals to reachout to senators and encourage them to pass the bill. The state senator of South Bend, David Niezgodski, can be contacted at 800-382-9467. Indiana senator Todd Young can also be contacted at 317-226-6700.

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