HHS Assistant Secretary Travels to Puerto Rico to Discuss Behavioral Health Care and Visit Línea PAS 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Call Center
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse and Chief Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon traveled to Puerto Rico this week to meet with officials on efforts to improve mental health and addictions care for residents of that U.S. territory. While SAMHSA officials visit Puerto Rico regularly, this is the first visit by a serving SAMHSA leader.
Today, Assistant Secretary Dr. Delphin-Rittmon visited Puerto Rico’s mental health and addiction treatment and recovery services, the Administración de Servicios de Salud Mental y Contra la Adicción (ASSMCA) and the ASMCA. PAS line which serves as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline call center in Puerto Rico, to discuss July’s transition to 988 and plans for the center to become a Spanish national network center for the 988 Lifeline. Starting in November, Línea PAS will answer calls from across the United States asking for help in Spanish.
“We are so grateful to Puerto Rico for helping those across the country who call 988 Lifeline and seek compassionate care and assistance during the crisis,” Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon said. “The United States faces a growing mental health crisis, and it’s crucial that people have someone to turn to when they’re in crisis – and equally important that they can talk to someone in the language of their choice.
Demand for Spanish calls increased 26% from February to August 2022. Puerto Rico is expected to play a critical role in the overall improvement of Spanish language services for the United States and eventually help Lifeline 988 develop and activate the cat and text in spanish.
“We appreciate Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon’s commitment to ASSMCA and her interest in identifying the resources needed to assist the population in need of mental health and addictions services, as well as efforts to promote public policy to prevention and treatment services,” the ASSMCA said. Administrator Dr. Carlos Rodríguez Mateo. “Dr. Delphin-Rittmon’s visit is extremely meaningful, as she will be able to assess first-hand the work that ASSMCA has been doing, through its human behavior professionals in the 78 municipalities following the impact of Hurricane Fiona, and at the same time how the PAS Line operates. Further, recognizing that beginning in November 2022, the PAS Line will offer services in Spanish to all Spanish-speaking residents of the United States as a relief center, becoming a emotional support resource model for the world, which in turn represents opportunities to access new proposals and other resources for the well-being of Puerto Ricans.
Later this week, Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon will attend the National Harm Reduction Conference and meet with local elected officials, faith leaders, the commission on suicide prevention and others.
Officials also discussed SAMHSA’s Disaster Hotline (1-800-985-5990) which saw a surge in calls from area codes in Puerto Rico following the recent hurricane. HRD counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to people who need crisis advice after experiencing a traumatic event or disaster.
Counselors are trained to offer confidential support to people who may be experiencing a range of symptoms. Like the 988 Lifeline, Spanish speakers can press “2” for bilingual assistance.
In fiscal year 2022, Puerto Rico received more than $161 million in federal SAMHSA grants for mental health and substance use, including grants for suicide prevention and opioid response.
Anyone seeking treatment for mental health or addiction issues should call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) or visit findtreatment.samhsa.gov.
If you or someone you know is in trouble or in crisis, help is available. Call 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.