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988 Line Received Millions of Calls, Texts in First Year

The 988 mental health crisis line received around 5 million calls, chats and texts in its first year of operation, which is up 35% compared to the old 10-digit line, NPR reports. The number changed to the three-digit line last July. It was created to help people dealing with issues like depression, substance use and suicidal ideation get immediate help and be guided to additional resources. Texts to the line have increased and average wait times have decreased to 41 seconds. "I am gratefully surprised at how smoothly everything has worked," says Jennifer Battle, who runs 988 for the Harris Center in Houston. "I was expecting the volume to be so significant so quickly that we would feel like we were drowning."

Eighteen percent of adults in the U.S. are aware of 988, according to a survey released in May. The Biden administration has invested nearly $1 billion to launch 988, and some states have also poured resources into the new line. In the last year, 988 answered more than 665,000 texts. Half of LGBTQ+ people in a recent survey said they worried a call to 988 could end in an unwanted interaction with police or forced hospitalization. 988 officials say working with 911 to send emergency services to someone who doesn't want them is rare and done only as a last resort. Some transgender advocates say this approach poses an unacceptable risk to trans people and could increase their risk of future suicide. Many experts also emphasized the need to build out the services that come after someone calls 988, including mobile crisis teams staffed by mental health professionals. Finding sustainable staffing and funding models remain top priorities as 988 enters its second year.


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