The Sozosei Foundation, a charitable foundation funded by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., awarded grants to 10 organizations committed to the decriminalization of mental illness by ensuring the effective implementation of 988 as the nationwide mental health crisis hotline that goes live in July, 2022 and by increasing access to mental healthcare in communities across the United States.
In February 2021, the Sozosei Foundation released its first open call for applications within its decriminalization of mental illness grantmaking portfolio. The Sozosei Foundation identified the rollout of 988 as a priority area in this open call because the Foundation believes that the number of people with mental illness in the criminal legal system will decrease if there are well-run crisis response systems (988 and a professionalized 911) – alongside accessible community-based mental health care. “A well-run and operated 988 system will help ensure that people with mental illness connect to the health care they need and deserve. Mental illness is not a crime and should not be treated as one.” Said William H. Carson, M.D. Chair of the Board of the Sozosei Foundation.
The decision to prioritize the implementation of 988 as a funding strategy was confirmed at the Foundation’s inaugural Global Solution Lab in May 2021. At the Global Solution Lab, over 50 multi-disciplinary “Solutionists” gathered to take on the ambitious task of identifying the top solutions to move the needle on the decriminalization of mental illness. The group included doctors, judges, academics, philanthropic leaders, people with lived experiences, and other experts on mental health and criminal justice. At the Lab, the Solutionists voted on the top solutions, (with the latter two being tied for third) they were:
- Scale evidence-based diversion practices and centers of excellence
- Support planning and implementation of 988
- Increase the size of the workforce
- Support the passage of Medicaid Reentry Act
In June, with these top solutions identified, the Sozosei Board of Directors approved a docket of 10 organizations all of which are working on the implementation of 988, focusing on advocacy and research, while also building the field to help ensure increased access to mental health care in communities.
Grant recipients include:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
- The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center
- The Kennedy Forum
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) now the National Council for Mental Wellbeing (NCMW)
- The Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Abuse
- Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene (RFMH)
- The Trevor Project
- University of Chicago Health Lab
“The creation of 988 represents a tremendous win for mental health advocates, who for years had been sounding the alarm about the United States’ growing behavioral health crisis—a crisis made exponentially worse by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Melissa M. Beck, Esq., Executive Director of the Sozosei Foundation. “With our investments, the Foundation aims to support the efforts of key organizations working to decriminalize mental illness, while simultaneously inspiring other philanthropies to prioritize 988 within their own funding portfolios.”
Future funding opportunities will continue to center the top four solutions identified at the Global Solution Lab. Upcoming events and convenings, including the upcoming Sozosei Summit on the decriminalization of mental illness in December 2021, will provide additional opportunities for collaboration, creative design, and evidence gathering to build a future where mental illness is not a crime.
ABOUT THE SOZOSEI FOUNDATION
The Sozosei Foundation is a U.S.-based, private charitable foundation launched by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. (OAPI) in 2019. The Foundation’s primary focus is to decriminalize mental illness in the United States with the overarching goal of eliminating the inappropriate use of jails and prisons for mental health diagnoses and treatment. The Sozosei Foundation also leads disaster relief and local philanthropy for OAPI. Visit www.SozoseiFoundation.org to learn more.
Contact: Melissa M. Beck, Esq, Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org
 In response to the growing number of suicides and mental health crises in the United States, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 established 988 as a nationwide crisis hotline number, effective July 2022.