Starting Now, The National Suicide Hotline Changes To 988

The nationwide hotline for suicide is changing to 988.

This transition is expected to bring millions more calls, chats, and texts into a new system.

Starting Now, The National Suicide Hotline Changes To 988

starting today, the national suicide hotline changes to 988
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Advocates of the change hope the focus on emergency assistance and the spending that has accompanied it will encourage the expansion of other mental health services that are in desperately short supply in many communities.

“I look at 988 as a starting place where we can really reimagine mental health care,” said Hannah Wesolowski, chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nationwide grass-roots group.

“We’re really looking at a fundamental tide shift in how we respond to people in mental health crisis.”

The network of over 200 local call centers, which has been severely underfunded throughout its history, fielded 3.6 million calls, chats and texts in the 2021 fiscal year, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

starting today, the national suicide hotline changes to 988
Image via Shutterstock

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Officials expect that to jump to 7.6 million contacts in the coming year, as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 800-273-TALK (8255) — gives way to988. The 800 number will remain active indefinitely.

The expected increase in contacts does not include a hotline option reserved for veterans. For example, the hotline in Tuscon is considered the gold standard for those suffering mental health crises.

When someone calls that city’s hotline, trained counselors help resolve the emergency on the phone 80 percent of the time. If they can’t, one of 16 “mobile crisis teams” is dispatched to the caller’s door — or any other location — day or night.

starting today, the national suicide hotline changes to 988
Image via Shutterstock

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And for those who need even more assistance, the city’s “stabilization center,” offers psychologists, doctors, nurses and other specialized personnel who can provide everything from urgent mental health care to drug treatment medication.

The arrangement helps folks who may be considering suicide or have other acute mental health needs out of emergency rooms and jails, reduces police and EMT involvement in behavioral health cases and speeds aid to the people who need it.

“We have the space. We have the staff. We have the training,” said Margie Balfour, chief of quality and clinical innovation at Connections Health Solutions, the company that runs the Tucson stabilization center.

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