The new three-digit calling code for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, 9-8-8, recently launched. The line is live Saturday, July 16.
988 connects people who are experiencing mental health-related distress to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) through call, text, or chat in order to access care and support.
While 988 is the newest edition to Washington’s network of crisis center providers, it will not replace any existing crisis call centers in the state.
“In the same way 911 transformed our ability to respond to emergency safety or health situations, 988 will transform our ability to connect people to help in behavioral and mental health crisis situations,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a July 15 news release.
988 was made possible through the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, which was adopted by the Federal Communications Commission. It is the first series of expansions to NSPL services, and includes the support of House Bill 1477 which was signed by Inslee last year.
HB 1477 expands Washington’s Behavioral Health Crisis Response System and suicide prevention services. It also designates the Washington Department of Health (DOH) and Health Care Authority (HCA) to act as lead agencies, in addition to a new 988 coordinator position under the governor’s office.
The multi-year phased rollout of changes include increasing options for youth and adults so they can receive help while experiencing a crisis, and strengthening the state’s ability to provide culturally, geographically, and linguistically appropriate services.
Veterans and service members can reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing ‘1’ after dialing 9-8-8. In the short-term future, Washington plans to launch a Native and Strong Lifeline, which will be dedicated to serving Washington’s Native and Alaska Native individuals.
The DOH and HCA expect an increase in call volumes. In order to meet this expected increase, NSPL crisis centers have increased hiring and recruitment efforts, trained over 132 individuals to provide counseling and support for the 988 program. They anticipate hiring about 20 additional positions.
“Providing an easy-to-remember, three-digit number is an important step to accessing potentially life-saving support,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah in a news release. “We are dedicated to enhancing and expanding behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention services for all Washingtonians.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health related distress, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8.