Strategic organizations are transformative organizations. They look beyond current experience to anticipate future trends and opportunities. They ask, “Why?” and evaluate answers within a future-oriented context. They expect to change.

Trendspotting and trend analysis can be powerful for strategic planning by creating credible illustrations of what the future might look like. Based on that, community-based organizations and their cross-sector partners can align community priorities and resources to help all people reach their full potential.

Incorporating a diversity of trends topics is particularly useful for creating a strategy where the end product is a long-term plan to be implemented over multiple years. Such plans aren’t just about identifying broad goals to be realized, but also key strategies for how the organization will meet those goals. 

Designing Useful Trend Inquiry

Core to trendspotting is research, and two types of research—primary and secondary—are best for identifying data that can inform activities like strategic planning, risk assessment, and opportunity mapping.

Primary research is firsthand research using methods like interviews with consumers and program participants, employees, community leaders and advocates, academic subject matter experts, regulators, policymakers, funders, and other stakeholders.

Secondary research uses available data and information found in reports and databases from diverse industries, which can be used as sources for trend determination. Examples can include demographics and other census tract information, local asset mapping, state and federal data (e.g., Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System [AFCARS]), and more.

The essential process of trend investigation is about asking the right questions about the right things. These can roughly be divided into three areas, with examples of questions below:

Getting the Most Out of Scenario Planning

Since no one can tell the future with 100% certainty all the time, developing robust scenarios can help bridge present circumstances with future requirements. The range and value of organizational opportunities based on trend analysis depend on scenarios that should include most of these criteria:

By evaluating relevant trends compiled through primary and secondary research and using the analysis to explore governance and operational scenarios, the ability to optimize programs and services and create achievable pathways to child and family well-being is strengthened.

Harnessing Trends

The Social Current Knowledge and Insights Center, available through our Engagement Package, helps professionals in human/social services to learn, improve, and innovate by providing timely, useful, and relevant information and resources. This is done by:

Professional librarians in the Knowledge and Insights Center routinely gather trends data on a variety of organizational topics, such as workforce resilience and service innovation, as well as meta trends that encompass demographics, systemic and environmental factors, technology, and more.

Hot Topics from 2022

Below are some of the key topics that have been monitored in 2022, with an insight summary, brief source examples, and related resources and offerings from Social Current:

Integration of Workforce Resilience as a Key Organizational Sustainability Strategy

Resilience is a buzzword and seen as necessary for workplaces. But can organizations improve employee resilience? Some think yes, others think no. “A resilience-oriented workforce spans many disciplines and training programs will need to reflect that. It requires a collaborative organizational model that promotes information sharing structures.”

Sources:

See Also:

Providers Increasingly Incorporating Social Determinants of Health in Service Delivery  

Social determinants of health (SDOH) and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) profoundly impact lives of individuals. Both SDOH and ACEs are risk factors for childhood mental health disorders, health, and social outcomes. These factors include housing instability, food insecurity, poverty, community violence, and discrimination. There are ways to help address these risk factors, and this includes things like quality education, safe neighborhoods, and positive parent-child relationships.

Sources:  

See Also:

Biggest Public Health Threats to Teens Are Mental Health Disorders

Teenage pregnancy, smoking, binge drinking, drunken driving and smoking are no longer the biggest public health threats to teens. It is now rising rates of mental health disorders. With up to one in five children having a mental, emotional, development, or behavioral disorder, and rising rates of mental health visits in emergency rooms and depression symptoms rising during the pandemic, it is critical to pay attention to the mental health crisis in young people today.

Sources:  

See Also:

Post-Pandemic Mental Health Crises Driving Change to Suicide Prevention Strategies   

With rising rates of depression and anxiety compared to prior to the pandemic, the new U.S. suicide hotline 988 comes at a critical time. Suicide is a leading cause of death for people ages 10-34 years old, and 90% of those who died by suicide had a “diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.”

Sources:  

See Also:

Successful Mental Health Interventions Are More Dependent on Cultural Responsiveness     

Cultural competencies and cultural responsiveness for mental health providers is now seen as critical, even “a matter of life and death.”

Source:  

See Also:

Integrated Community and Systems Response Counteract School-to-Prison Pipeline  

The school-to-prison pipeline is a “disturbing national trend wherein youth are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal legal systems. Many of these youth are Black or Brown, have disabilities, or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and would benefit from additional supports and resources. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out.” 

Source:  

See Also:

Other top trends recently updated by the Knowledge and Insights Center:

How to Access Our Specialized Researchers & Tools

As you plan for 2023 and beyond, make sure you’re utilizing all the tools in your toolbox. Join our Dec. 7 webinar for an in-depth overview of the Knowledge and Insights Center. For more information on the resources portal, including the Ask-a-Librarian reference request service, visit the Social Current Hub or contact the Knowledge and Insights Center.

About the Knowledge and Insights Center

The Knowledge and Insights Center offers a robust resources portal through the Social Current Hub, which includes a digital library with over 22,000 records; aggregated research and business databases; diverse topic collections and library guides; original content summarizing complex information; and coaching that helps users maximize these resources. Our team includes professional librarians with wide-ranging skillsets and extensive experience in collection development specific to the nonprofit social services sector.

Though the final vote counts in many close races will take days, if not weeks, to tally, Election Day has provided surprising results that go against the historical norm for midterm elections. Virtually all midterms are referendums on the president’s party, often resulting in massive gains for the party out of power. However, Democrats aggressively messaged this election as a “choice” rather than a referendum and managed to win some races that many pundits thought would be easy wins for Republicans. Inflation, the economy, abortion, crime, and immigration topped the issues driving voters to the polls.

Though Republicans gained seats in the House of Representatives and are likely to have a slight majority when it’s all said and done, Democrats avoided an expected thumping and held on to critical seats in suburban areas across the country. In the Senate, Democrats picked up a seat in Pennsylvania and successfully defended seats in Nevada and Arizona, clinching control of the Senate. A runoff election in Georgia next month will decide whether Democrats increase their margin in the chamber to 51-49. Democrats maintained control of critical statehouses across the country, while Republicans had only a handful of state-level surprises, including Ron DeSantis’ win in Florida by a margin that was larger than expected.

Impact of the Midterms on Nonprofits

The “Federal Mid-Term Elections: Impact on Charitable Nonprofits” webinar featured perspectives from leaders of national nonprofits including Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson. Watch now!

A divided Congress is likely to have a direct impact on the social sector and our communities. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who may be the Speaker of the House, and other Republicans have promised to refuse to raise the debt ceiling without forcing cuts to social services, clean energy, and Social Security and Medicare. President Joe Biden has resolutely opposed these measures. This standoff could lead to a government shutdown that would send the country into default and temporarily pause needed federal funds for nonprofits until lawmakers figure out a solution. Without a federal budget for next year, many of the funding streams the social sector relies on would be in danger. In the background of this potential showdown, the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates, and the economy would be teetering on the edge of a recession. Nonprofits must redouble their efforts to help their communities grapple with these challenges. The social sector must act now to temper the passions of both sides and support bipartisan pathways forward.

Voter Turnout Soars in Midterm Elections

Votes are still being tallied, but initial counts and projections suggest that voter turnout will land around 46% of eligible voters. Though this estimate falls short of the massive turnout in the 2018 midterms of approximately 49%, it still surpasses every other midterm election this century. In a handful of states, like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Utah, and Oregon, voter turnout exceeded 2018 levels. One of the surprises of the night was the turnout among young voters. In this midterm, 27% of voters between the ages of 18-29 cast a ballot—the second-highest turnout rate of that age group in 30 years. Youth voter turnout averages about 20% in midterm elections. In key states like Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, this demographic averaged 31%. Youth activists credited the increased turnout in these states to increased engagement with young people through targeted outreach and voter registration efforts.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

Gettysburg, PA (October 30, 2022) OPEN MINDS and Social Current announced a new collaboration focused on preparing community-based organizations for performance-based contracting with health plans and other payers.

To launch the initiative, OPEN MINDS and Social Current have created an executive learning series to provide Social Current network organizations with the opportunity to improve their value-based reimbursement preparedness and help identify what tools and solutions are needed. The series includes an informational webinar, which is now available for on-demand viewing, and access to OPEN MINDS Value-Based Reimbursement Readiness Assessment, which provides a review of the organization’s infrastructure and preparedness for working with health plans. At the completion of the assessment, organizations will receive a report that summarizes organizational readiness across a number of domains and a list of recommendations to guide an action plan for service line development and infrastructure improvement. The series also includes in-person and virtual technical assistance sessions on the changing role of health plans in the health and human service system.

“The fact is that the majority of health and human services provider organizations will need to work with health plans—either through direct contracting or through referrals—as more complex populations are moving to managed care plans,” said OPEN MINDS Chief Executive Officer Monica E. Oss. “It is critical that executive teams of these organizations are prepared for successful and sustainable health plan relationships as the market continues to shift.”

In addition to the assessments and tools, OPEN MINDS and Social Current will jointly provide technical assistance and consultation to individual organizations. The OPEN MINDS team brings expertise in strategy, health plan contracting, technology infrastructure development, and value-based services line development. The Social Current consultants offer consultation in equity, diversity, and inclusion; workforce resilience; brain science; and leadership development.

“As organizations continue to focus on effectiveness and impact, we want to offer access to our combined areas of expertise. Together, Social Current and OPEN MINDS offer organizations a diverse array of supports that help organizations build capacity to meet market demands and improve quality,” said Social Current President and Chief Executive Officer Jody Levison-Johnson.

For more information about the initiative, or to access the custom resources, contact Ashly Sterner at or Tim Kobussen.

About OPEN MINDS

OPEN MINDS is a national market intelligence, management consulting, and marketing services firm specializing exclusively in the markets of the health and human service field that serve consumers with chronic conditions and complex support needs. OPEN MINDS mission is to provide payers, service provider organizations, and technology and scientific firms that serve these consumers with the market and management knowledge needed to improve their organizational efficiency and effectiveness.

Federal student loans continue to make news in Washington, DC. On Oct. 25, 2022, the Department of Education, led by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, announced an executive action to change and streamline the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program permanently. This executive action is designed to work in tandem with regulatory changes, set to go into effect in July 2023.

Starting on Nov. 1, 2022, the Department of Education will allow borrowers with 20 years (240 months) or 25 years (300 months) of payments to start receiving loan discharges through these changes. Borrowers who applied for PSLF before Oct. 31, 2022, and reached 120 payments due to the deferment and forbearance changes, will also receive loan discharges. The Department of Education will continue implementing federal loan discharges for borrowers who reach the forgiveness threshold in the months after November 2022.

In July 2023, the Department of Education will automatically apply the same payment count treatment to all Direct and Department-managed Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) for borrowers who do not otherwise reach the number of months necessary for forgiveness.

A complete list of the improvements can be found in this fact sheet. The regulations will be published in the coming days and will go into effect on July 1, 2023.

Coverage for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Expanded (CHIP) Expanded

On Oct. 27, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that more than half of all U.S. states had taken steps to expand the coverage period for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to 12 months after pregnancy. This announcement comes after the states of Pennsylvania and Georgia took the necessary steps to expand Medicaid and CHIP coverage this Fall, a move that will make an additional 57,000 individuals in those two states eligible for expanded healthcare. A signature plank of the Biden Administration’s domestic policy agenda has revolved around Maternal & Fetal Health, as outlined more fully in the Administration’s Maternal Health Blueprint. The ability for individual states to expand eligibility criteria for their Medicaid and CHIP programs is a direct result of provisions found in the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Biden in March of 2021. An estimated 418,000 Americans across 26 states and the District of Columbia now have expanded access to postpartum coverage due to the 2021 American Rescue Plan.

IRS Warns Nonprofits of Tax Savings Schemes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), on Oct. 19,  advised businesses, including nonprofits, to be careful of individuals or groups who erroneously advise organizations to improperly claim the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) on their organization tax return. Some third parties are taking improper positions related to taxpayer eligibility for and computation of the credit. The groups and individuals providing the fraudulent advice have been known to charge non-profits costly upfront fees. The IRS advises non-profit organizations and businesses to remain cautious about tax savings schemes and plans. The organization is always responsible for the information reported on its tax returns. Improperly claiming the ERC could result in taxpayers being required to repay the credit along with penalties and interest.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

To mark the beginning of the school year, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education on the House Committee on Education and Labor hosted the hearing, “Back to School: Meeting Students’ Social and Emotional Needs.” Chairman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands) opened the hearing by citing evidence-based interventions, like intensive tutoring, summer learning, and social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, that help reverse learning loss experienced during the pandemic. He noted several school districts that have used American Rescue Plan funds to address students’ needs through parent academies, family resource centers, and mental health counselors.

One of the witnesses, Dr. Aaliyah Samuel, president and CEO of Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, stressed the importance of SEL, which, “creates the conditions necessary for academic recovery.” Citing a meta-analysis of 213 studies on SEL initiatives, she said that these programs decreased anxiety and behavior issues among students, improved attitudes toward fellow students and school, and enhanced academic performance. Samuel warned against recent efforts to politicize SEL through misinformation and bans and encouraged lawmakers to continue supporting SEL programming as a critical component of addressing learning loss.

HHS Awards Grants to Address Black Youth Mental Health

The Office of Minority Health awarded $3 million in grants as part of an initiative to improve Black youth mental health. The three-year project, carried out by eight organizations, will identify policies that address mental health challenges for Black youth. Awardees will test these approaches in different settings, including schools, community centers, and religious organizations. The initiative grew from a Health and Human Services report on Black youth suicide, which analyzed demographics, risk factors, and potential interventions to prevent suicide. The eight organizations are located in Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and Rhode Island, and the project officially began Sept. 30, 2022.

New Social Determinants of Health Initiatives in Massachusetts and Oregon

Massachusetts and Oregon received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to cover specific nutrition and housing assistance with Medicaid funds. These section 1115 demonstration initiatives recognize that social needs, as well as medical needs, drive health outcomes. Through these projects, Massachusetts can provide housing support, nutrition education, and food assistance to Medicaid enrollees, including postpartum individuals, for up to 12 months. Oregon will be able to expand these types of social services to individuals during life transitions, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In both states, Medicaid beneficiaries can continue accessing medical services alongside these new services.

New Ratings in the Family First Prevention Services Clearinghouse

The Family First Prevention Clearinghouse has posted new ratings for 12 prevention services. Two were found to be “well-supported,” one “supported,” one “promising,” and eight rated as “does not currently meet criteria.” The programs included mental health, in-home parent skill-based, kinship navigator, and substance abuse services. So far, 121 programs and services have been reviewed, and 62 have been rated as promising, supported, or well-supported.

The new ratings are as follows:

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

By: Susana Mariscal and Bryan Victor

There is a shift taking place across the nation regarding child abuse and neglect fatalities. These heartbreaking tragedies make headlines across every community, with a focus on why systems failed our children and how these children fell through the cracks.

As the U.S. Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities notes, child welfare systems have historically been focused on addressing harm only after it has occurred. Fortunately, federal and state agencies along with local nonprofits and community leaders are beginning to work collaboratively and create a multi-system service continuum to provide the resources that families need beforehand, preventing abuse and neglect before it occurs. We can see evidence of that shift, with demonstration projects across the U.S., including Indiana, that are identifying risk factors (e.g., contributing factors) for child fatalities, moving resources upstream to support families, and building on protective factors with an emphasis on prevention.

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) is one of five sites nationwide participating in a Department of Justice demonstration initiative known as Child Safety Forward (CSF). With support from technical assistance providers and multidisciplinary child fatality review teams, IDOH has conducted research focusing on Clark, Delaware, Grant, and Madison counties that identified unsafe sleep-related deaths as the leading cause of death due to external causes (e.g., sleep-related, drowning) for children ages 0-18 years old, excluding medical reasons. The findings from IDOH – based on a 5-year retrospective review – highlighted that Black infants are at a heightened risk for sleep-related deaths (55.9%t; 19 of 34 deaths) and that sleep-related deaths have been underreported throughout the state due to inconsistent and incomplete documentation of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs). High quality, accurate fatality data enables jurisdictions to better understand and address risk factors, improving the effectiveness and actionability of recommendations.

Based on these findings, IDOH took several steps to expand the state’s ability to prevent child fatalities. They developed Community Action Teams to implement prevention initiatives, and are working collaboratively with Prevent Child Abuse Indiana chapters and Family Resource Centers run by the Strengthening Indiana Families project to educate the public about safe sleep practices. Family Resource Centers are a one-stop-shop for families, providing tailored resources to address their needs and build on their strengths. IDOH has also developed videos providing safe sleep information and stories of parents who lost a child in unsafe sleep environments. (For more information on safe sleep, visit the IDOH website.)

Informed by findings from the CSF initiative, Indiana legislators passed House Enrolled Act 1169 — which went into effect on July 1, 2022 — establishing consistent standards for SUID investigations and data collection, aligning with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention best practices, including pathology and toxicology.


It is important to note that, in 2020, in 95 of 168 cases identified (56.5 percent), children were unknown to Child Protective Services before the fatality, indicating that government agencies like the Indiana Department of Child Services alone cannot prevent these deaths. The work of fatality prevention lies with all of us: neighbors, community members, and the full range of professionals that serve children and families. To increase our effectiveness at preventing these fatalities and reducing racial disparities, the multiple systems that serve families must collaborate and share information to provide coordinated, holistic services. Communities also need to increase their formal and informal supports for families, so that all parents in the community have equitable access to the resources they need to be connected and safe. Every parent needs help at some point and -as the Family Resource Centers’ motto says- “Kids don’t come with instructions. We’re here to help.” Let’s all join in the nationwide shift toward prevention by supporting families in our communities so that children can develop their full potential. Imagine what a difference we all can make in the lives of children in our community when we work together proactively to keep the most vulnerable among us safe.


A version of this article appeared previously in the Indianapolis Star on October 6, 2022.

Disclaimer: This product was supported by cooperative agreement number 2019-V3-GX-K005 Reducing Child Fatalities and Recurring Injuries Caused by Crime Victimization, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice and by the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, USDHHS, under grant 90CA1864. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Children’s Bureau.

In the first White House conference on health and nutrition in 50 years, President Biden outlined an ambitious plan to stamp out hunger by the end of the decade. According to the Department of Agriculture, 10% of households, about 13.5 million, expressed challenges accessing enough food last year. The administration says the conference fits into its equity agenda since communities of color and rural communities disproportionately suffer from hunger and diet-related disease. The plan involves $8 billion in commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors, including a $250 million “food is medicine” initiative by Kroger and the American Heart Association. These programs will educate the public about nutritious food, encourage fast food chains to include water, milk, or juice in children’s meals, and make unused food from restaurants available to food insecure communities.  
  
The White House also announced strategies that will ultimately require congressional approval. For instance, President Biden said he wanted to expand free school meals by bolstering “community eligibility,” a program that allows school districts in low-income areas to provide meals to all students rather than requiring parents to sign their children up individually. Currently, schools and districts are eligible if 40% of their students receive food-stamp benefits or are enrolled in other safety net programs. The administration has said that lowering the threshold to 25% would expand free school meals to another 9 million children. Congress will have to approve such changes to the program. Social Current will monitor any progress made following this historic conference on hunger.

MIECHV Bill Passes House Ways and Means Committee

The House Ways and Means Committee passed the Jackie Walorski Maternal Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act, named after the late congresswoman. She tragically passed away in a car accident earlier this year. The bill, which earned bipartisan support, will double federal funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program over the next five years through a $100 million increase in base funding as bolstered federal matching begins in the fiscal year 2024. In addition to an annual report to Congress, the bill will require the creation of an “outcomes dashboard” to help lawmakers track the program’s impact. Virtual home visiting is also allowed on a limited use basis, but all programs must include at least one in-person visit per year. The bill also has a 2% set aside for workforce support, retention, and case management. Next, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration.

HHS Releases Roadmap to Address Mental Health Crisis

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its “Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration,” outlining President Biden’s strategy for combatting the national mental health crisis. The roadmap follows the president’s announcement in the State of the Union speech last year of a national system to prevent and treat mental and substance use disorders. The document cites integrated care as a critical pillar in the HHS strategy, arguing that behavioral health care should be incorporated into many different settings, including physical health care, early childhood, and social services. Advancing equity is another pillar being cited. The document cites many groups and communities with meager access to mental health care due to past and current discrimination and neglect, including racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ individuals, rural communities, and people with disabilities. The strategy has three prongs:

  1. Strengthening system capacity
  2. Connecting Americans to care
  3. Supporting Americans by creating healthy environments

This new roadmap will serve as a guidepost for the administration as it engages with Congress, states, localities, and other stakeholders to combat the mental health crisis.

This September, Social Current shared information and resources about the new 988 Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Month in this blog post, The Promise of 988: Accelerating Community Response to Suicide Crisis. Learn more about one of the effective community responses being played out to tackle the mental health crisis today.

New Poll about Public Views of the Nonprofit Sector

Independent Sector commissioned a poll demonstrating the nonprofit sector’s strong support from the public leading up to the midterm elections. The survey, which polled 1,000 registered voters nationwide, found that the public supports charitable giving incentives, policy and advocacy efforts from the nonprofit sector, and more civic engagement from the industry.

These results suggest that the public strongly supports a financially sound nonprofit sector that is more fully engaged in policy development and advocacy.

Federal Government Narrowly Sidesteps Shutdown

By a vote of 72 to 23, the Senate passed a temporary spending package to fund the federal government at current levels until Dec. 16, after the midterm elections. The bill subsequently passed the House of Representatives and received President Biden’s approval on Friday, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown had an agreement not been reached by Sept. 30.

The delay was caused by bipartisan opposition to Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-W.V.) permitting reform bill, which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had promised to pass in exchange for the West Virginia senator’s vote for the Inflation Reduction Act earlier this year. Ultimately, Senator Manchin withdrew his bill from the overall spending package. Several other provisions managed to survive, including $12.3 billion for military and economic support for Ukraine, $1 billion for low-income families to afford heating costs this winter, and $2 billion in natural disaster recovery funds.

The new lifeline may already be helping save lives

On July 16, the U.S. transitioned to 988, an easy-to-remember number that routes callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, now known as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or 988 Lifeline. Similar to the 911 emergency system that connects callers with nearby first-responders, the 988 Lifeline is a 24/7 national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Individuals can call or text the hotline, which has increased access to trained support. Previously, callers dialed a 10-digit toll-free number, not as easily remembered and potentially without connection to local support or as many trained counselors.

Mental health and health care providers are particularly glad for the rollout since they will be able to respond to many crises before there is escalation or delays in referrals from 911 responders who may not be trained in mental health crisis intervention. On average, police spend 20% of their time responding to and transporting people who are having mental health crises and it is anticipated that 988 can help reduce violent interactions with the police, including fatal shootings of people in crisis. It is hoped that 988 will also be part of the solution to end the constant cycle of ER visits, arrests, imprisonment, and homelessness among mentally ill people.

The $432 million initial funding for the long-sought system transition came from the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Congress and with collaboration of other federal, state/territory, and local governments across the country. An additional $150 million has been allocated for the 988 Lifeline under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed this summer.

Promising Data Indicate Impact

Suicide is one of the country’s leading causes of death; nearly 46,000 people died by suicide in 2020, or one death every 11 minutes. An estimated 12.2 million Americans had seriously thought about suicide in 2020; 3.2 million Americans planned a suicide attempt and 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide.

But there are positive indications of 988’s goal to catalyze connection into action. At the end of August, the first full month of operation, the 988 Lifeline is potentially already saving lives. New data released from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show a 45% increase in overall call volume with 988 and a substantial improvement in answer rates and wait times, compared to August 2021 with the previous lifeline system.

This new system expedites the connection between those struggling with mental health crises and properly trained counselors who will ideally be located close to the caller, meaning communities can better leverage localized resources. In instances where the local center is too busy to pick up, callers will be transferred to a different center, so they will still be able to receive prompt support.

The Road to Transformation

Transformation of this scale is never easy. It will take time and more resources for the 988 Lifeline system to reach its full potential. A recent survey of 180 public health officials in the U.S. by the Rand Corporation found that 51% of respondents said they were not involved in developing a strategic plan for 988. And only 16% said they had created a budget to support 988 operations.

As community-based organizations and health care and mental health systems know all too well with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, improving prevention and response crisis care in the U.S. is especially needed after rising rates of depression and anxiety, particularly among youth and young adults. Because of increased demand, there is a need for stronger support through digital tools, as in-person care is not always readily possible in infection hot spots and there may be a waiting period for in-person counseling.

The Lifeline system is only one part of an effective community response: Other cross-system initiatives like mobile crisis teams, crisis stabilization programs, and expanded access to behavioral health services—especially for communities of color, LGBTQ individuals, and other marginalized groups—are just a few of the other community-designed elements that will reduce suicide rates. Building out the broader crisis care continuum is also dependent on the commitment of future elected officials and other cross-sector leaders to ensure the safety and well-being of all U.S. residents, ensuring that there is someone to call, someone to respond to, and somewhere for every American in crisis to go.

Suicide Prevention Month and 988 Resources

Related Learning and Resources from Social Current


If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. During this major system transition, the previous Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis; the Veterans Crisis Line previous phone number (1-800-273-8255), text (838255), and chat (VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat) likewise remain active.

By Amy Templeman, director of Within Our Reach at Social Current

There is a shift taking place across the nation regarding child abuse and neglect fatalities. These tragedies, long considered inevitable, make headlines across every community and jurisdiction, with a focus on why systems failed our children and how these children fell through the cracks.

One finding points to the fact that child welfare systems have historically been focused on addressing harm only after it has occurred. Now imagine a system that works collaboratively across multiple agencies to provide the resources and supports that families need to prevent abuse and neglect before it can occur. That is the shift taking place today, with demonstration projects taking place across the United States, including Indiana, that are identifying risk factors and moving resources upstream to address the stressors that families face and with an emphasis on prevention.

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) is one of five sites nationwide participating in a Department of Justice demonstration initiative known as Child Safety Forward. With support from a broad range of technical assistance providers, IDOH has conducted research that identifies unsafe sleep-related deaths as the leading cause of death due to external causes for children ages 0-18 years old, when excluding medically expected fatalities.

Their findings, which focused on Clark, Grant, Delaware, and Madison Counties, highlighted the fact that infants are at a heightened risk for sleep-related deaths and that those deaths were being underreported throughout the state based on inconsistent and incomplete child fatality reviews. Furthermore, they found that inconsistent and incomplete documentation of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs) had the potential to limit knowledge of the true rates of SUIDs and the risk factors. High quality, accurate fatality data enables jurisdictions to better understand and address risk factors, promoting the effectiveness and actionability of recommendations.

It is important to note that, in 107 of 140 of the cases identified, children were unknown to Child Protective Services (CPS) before the fatality, pointing to the fact that CPS alone cannot address these deaths and supporting the need for a public health approach to child maltreatment-related fatalities.

Based on these findings, IDOH took several important steps. They developed Community Action Teams in each of the four counties to create avenues for distribution of safe sleep information and resources through pediatricians, vaccination sites, and other channels. They connected with Family Resource Centers and Prevent Child Abuse chapters to share information and identify resources for families.

They also shared their data with government leaders and policymakers, which helped lead to improved SUID policies in Governor Holcomb’s 2022 Next Level Agenda. On July 1, 2022, House Enrolled Act 1169 went into effect, establishing consistent standards for investigations into SUIDs, aligning with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention best practices. This alignment will ensure that coroner investigations into deaths among healthy children who die suddenly and unexpectedly are handled consistently across the state and include imaging, pathology, and toxicology.

Child abuse and neglect fatalities, including unsafe sleep deaths, are not inevitable. They are preventable, solvable and an issue that we all have a stake in addressing. For more information on safe sleep guidelines, visit the Indiana Department of Child Services website on Safe Sleep.


A version of this article previously appeared in the Indiana Herald Bulletin on September 15, 2022.

Disclaimer: This product was supported by cooperative agreement number 2019-V3-GX-K005 Reducing Child Fatalities and Recurring Injuries Caused by Crime Victimization, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

If there is to be significant change, there needs to be significant research.

In 2020, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs, and the William T. Grant Foundation came together to address the gaps they saw in child welfare research. With their overarching goal to reduce inequality within the system, they identified research gaps that spanned community-based family supports, child protective services, out-of-home care, and post-permanency services. They partnered with 50 individuals representing an array of experts, stakeholders, and people with lived experience to identify these gaps. With information from those conversations, they outlined the most urgent needs in the report, Building a 21st-Century Research Agenda. This initiative continues to conduct research to address these identified gaps and answer key questions, as well as increase the use of this research in decision-making.

In partnership with these three leading organizations, Social Current is hosting a five-part webinar series that digs into the research agenda. These sessions highlight different areas of focus within the agenda.

Together, we can move toward a child welfare system that prioritizes equity and dignity and drives change with greater power and pace.

Read this recent blog by the William T. Grant Foundation to learn more about the initiative.

Hear more from initiative participants in this video.