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First month of new 988 crisis line leads to jump in calls, texts

The new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is already reaching more Americans in distress – and connecting them to help faster — than the old 10-digit suicide prevention line it replaced July 16 (Source: “New 988 mental health crisis line sees jump in calls and texts during first month,” NPR, Sept. 10).

New data released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that in August – the first full month that 988 was operational — the Lifeline saw a 45% increase in overall volume of calls, texts and chats compared to August 2021.
 
The number of calls answered went up from 141,400 to 216,000 – a more than 50% increase, according to HHS officials. And texts answered went up by a whopping 1000% – from 3,400 in August, 2021, to 39,900 in August of this year. The number of chats on the Lifeline's website that were answered saw a 195% increase.
 
While the 988 Lifeline is accessible nationally, with a national network of call centers, it essentially functions as a state-run system. And states vary vastly in how much they have invested in the former 10-digit Lifeline and associated services. According to a recent analysis by the National Institute of Mental Illness, very few states have passed legislation to supplement the recent federal funds into 988 (Ohio has partial 988 implementation legislation pending).