New ‘988’ Crisis Line Connects Callers to Mental Health Support

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988 Lifeline

Mental health support for those who need it is now closer than ever.

That’s because Pennsylvanians who call, text or chat by dialing 988 or visiting 988Lifeline.org are now directly connected to the same trained, compassionate crisis response counselors who were accessible through the former 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has been rebranded as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

State officials late last month highlighted the national launch of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which officially went live July 16.

“Pennsylvanians now have a new, easier way to connect to behavioral or mental health crisis services–a historic step to increase access to life-saving support when people need it most,” said Pa. Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead. “988 can be used by anyone, any time, at no cost, no matter what you are experiencing. Your life matters, so please know that this service is always here to help provide the support that you or your loved ones deserve.”

In 2020, the U.S. Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to connect callers and texters to lifeline call centers.

Pennsylvania has 13 crisis call centers that collectively serve the entire state, which a news release said will continue to provide support for individuals contemplating suicide or self-harm, or with any behavioral or mental health need for themselves, as well as people looking for help for a loved one experiencing a mental health crisis.

“While the majority of calls are triaged and de-escalated without deploying in-person services, in communities where mobile crisis mental health teams are available, the 988 counselor can dispatch the team to provide on-site support and interventions,” the news release said. Dispatchers are also able to deploy police or other emergency services if there is an immediate risk to life or safety.

Callers to 988 can also connect with the Veterans Crisis Line or assistance in Spanish.

“As an OB-GYN physician, I’ve spent my career caring for people, especially during vulnerable times of their lives like the pregnancy and post-partum periods,” said Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. Denise Johnson in response to the launch of 988 in the Commonwealth. “Providing mental and emotional health assistance is just as important as taking care of a person’s physical health.”

“I have seen firsthand how individuals and families can benefit when they receive help to address their mental and behavioral health needs,” Johnson added. “The new 988 number will make help that much easier to reach for any Pennsylvanian who is in crisis or who needs help for a loved one.”

Lifeline services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To chat, go to 988Lifeline.org/chat.

While the intent of 988 is to improve access to potentially life-saving mental health crisis resources, the existing Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available, as will 911 in the event that an individual is experiencing a life-threatening emergency.

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