U.S. Transitions to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
August 17, 2022
CARROLLTON, Mo. – On July 16, the U.S. successfully transitioned to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) – the easy-to-remember number to reach trained crisis counselors for help with suicide, mental health and substance use-related crises. There were significant volume increases over the week. Total volume increased by 45 percent, and 988 Lifeline counselors answered 23,000 more calls, texts and chats than they had the week before transition.
The lifeline, which also links to the Veterans Crisis Line, follows a three-year joint effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care more in reach for people in need.
“According to Carroll County’s Community Health Needs Assessment completed in 2021, one of our priority focus areas is mental health,” said Scott Thoreson, Carroll County Memorial Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer. “We are working hard behind-the-scenes to help inform the public about 988 and are also a part of the Carroll County Mental Health Task Force, formed to address mental health in Carroll County.”
The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law after the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020, authorized 988 as a new three-digit number for suicide and mental health crisis. All telephone service and text providers in the U.S. and the five major U.S. territories are required by the FCC to activate 988.
“988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you. Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans,” said U.S. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
“Please note the 988 number is a new resource, and therefore, could still be working out the kinks,” said Rachel Davidson, Carroll County Mental Health Task Force member. “For those experiencing a crisis, it is important to know 988 isn’t your only option.”
The Carroll County Mental Health Task Force wants you to also have access to other important hotlines, including:
- Burrell Central MO Crisis Line: 1-800-395-2132
- Copline (Law Enforcement Officers and their families): 1-800-267-5463
- Option #1 for Veterans: 1-800-273-8255. Veterans can also text 838255
- The National Grad Crisis Line for Graduate Students: 1-877-472-3457
- The Trevor Project for the LGBTQIA+ community: 1-866-488-7386
The $432 million 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline federal investment included $105 million in grant funding to states and territories, provided by the American Rescue Plan, to improve response rates, increase capacity to meet future demand, and ensure calls initiated in their states or territories are first routed to local, regional, or state crisis call centers. This funding also included scaling up crisis center and back-up center capacity, and provided special services, including a sub-network for Spanish language speaker. Prior to this investment, the Lifeline, which has existed since 2005, had been long unfunded and under-resourced.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a network of more than 200 state and local call centers supported by HHS through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“Recent investments made in the Lifeline have already resulted in more calls, chats, and texts answered even as volume has increased, but we know that too many people are still experiencing suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support they need,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and leader of SAMHSA. “Over time, the vision for 988 is to have additional crisis services available in communities across the country, much the way emergency medical services work. The success of 988 depends on our continued partnership with states, as the federal government cannot do this alone. We urge states and territories to join us and invest further in answering the call to transform our crisis care response nationwide.”
FCC staff first proposed 988 in a report to Congress in August 2019 as the nationwide, easy-to-remember, 3-digit dialing code for individuals in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules designating 988 for this purpose. Recognizing the need to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities, the FCC adopted additional rules in November 2021 to expand access to this important service by establishing the ability to also text 988.
“All across our country, people are hurting. They need help. The good news is that getting that help just got a lot easier. 988 will be available nationwide for individuals in crisis, and their loved ones, to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline more easily,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This cross-government effort has been years in the making and comes at a crucial point to help address the mental health crisis in our country, especially for our young people.”
VA administers the Veterans Crisis Line through the Lifeline’s national network. Because of VA’s partnership with the Lifeline, the Veterans Crisis Line is affected by this transition to a new number. Veterans and their loved ones can now Dial 988 then Press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
“988 has been a long time coming and will serve as a critical resource during a crisis when every second counts. The new, shorter number will help ensure Veterans have easier access to the Veterans Crisis Line,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “This launch is a whole-of-government approach in line with the President’s call to prioritize mental health by strengthening access to crisis services, and preventing Veteran suicide, our top clinical priority.”
In 2021, the Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts. That number is expected to at least double within the first full year after the 988 transition.
The U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10-14 and 25-34. From April 2020 to 2021, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. Studies have shown that after speaking with a trained crisis counselor, most Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful.
The 10-digit Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will continue to be operational after July 16 and will route calls to 988 indefinitely. Veterans, service members, and their families can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the current phone number 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or by chat or text to 838255.
More information on 988 is available at www.samhsa.gov/988 and https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/faqs.
Information in this release was provided by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
For more information about the services at Carroll County Memorial Hospital, visit our website http://www.carrollcountyhospital.org or call 660-542-1695.
Carroll County Memorial Hospital (CCMH), the area’s premier healthcare resource, is a 25-bed Critical Access facility serving Carrollton and the surrounding communities. It offers 24-hour emergency care, specialized services such as advanced diagnostics, post-acute skilled care (swing bed) and comprehensive family care. CCMH is dedicated to the Health and Well Being of All We Serve. For more information, visit carrollcountyhospital.org.