988 lifeline sees momentous first year

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 6:41 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Experts discussed data and year-one impacts of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline during a panel Thursday afternoon.

988 has taken strides in improving access to mental health services for Kansans in its first year with a number of promising data points.

“We have seen just an explosion in our ability to provide really comprehensive crisis care services for folks who are experiencing mental health distress,” says Monica Kurz, vice president of policy and prevention for Headquarters Kansas. and are helping them avoid places like the emergency room and jail and knowing that the incredible amount of growth that we’ve seen in that this first year, I’m really optimistic about 988 as it moves forward.”

Between August 2022 and July 2023, over 20,000 Kansans called in, for an average of about 1,600 calls a month.

Experts on the Kansas Health Institute panel were most excited about the number of those calls answered within state borders.

“We’ve had above 90%, in state answer rate since December 2022,” says Valentina Blanchard, analyst for KHI. “And that was a goal that Kansas had going into 988 implementation.”

Program leaders say 988 has encouraged collaboration across different mental health systems in Kansas.

“We have seen that 988 and has been a great unifier,” says Kurz. “For so long I think people really experienced that when they had a mental health or a substance use crisis and that it was tough to know where to go. We were all pretty siloed in our own areas, and providing services in one kind of singular way.”

The 988 lifeline functions a lot like 911, connecting callers to trained counselors closest to them by area code.

“988 is not quite as well known as 911 yet, but that would be the goal,” says Blanchard. “Is that when people think about obtaining mental health services 988 Is that first number that pops in to their heads.”

988 boasts an average answer speed of about 20 seconds, 12 seconds below the national average.

It also offers text services. All communications with the lifeline are confidential.