Lifeline 9-8-8 answers calls for suicidal New Yorkers

— Photo from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will connect people experiencing a mental-health or substance-use crisis to a trained counselor who can address their immediate needs and help connect them to ongoing care.

New Yorkers have a new number to call or text — 9-8-8 — to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

All 62 counties in New York State will be covered for the launch of the new 988 Lifeline, which will ensure that anyone with a New York area code contacting 988 will be connected to one of New York’s crisis centers, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“Connecting people who are experiencing a mental-health crisis or considering suicide to trained counselors can significantly help them through difficulties that seem insurmountable, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides hope and support to those who need it most,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in the release.

The state’s 2023 budget included $35 million to significantly expand 988 crisis call-center capacity throughout New York State. This funding will increase to $60 million on a full annual basis starting in 2024.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will connect people experiencing a mental-health or substance-use crisis to a trained counselor who can address their immediate needs and help connect them to ongoing care.

It is meant to reduce health-care spending with more cost-effective early intervention, and also to reduce the use of law enforcement, public health, and other safety resources.

While meeting the growing need for crisis intervention, the Lifeline is also meant to help end stigma toward those seeking mental health care.

There are currently 13 operating 988 crisis contact centers in New York State and two in the development stage.

The Federal Communications Commission designated 9-8-8 as the three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law in October 2020, with the requirement for phone service providers to transition to 988 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2022.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was originally funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and has been administered by Vibrant Emotional Health since it began in 2005. It has served as an invaluable resource, helping thousands of people overcome suicidal crises or mental health-related distress every day, according to the governor’s office.

Between 2005 and 2020, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received a total of 20,478,698 calls.

In 2019, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received 137,481 calls originating from New York, a 73 percent increase since 2016.

In 2020, New York State received 142,827 calls, a 13-percent increase in just one year. A significant increase in call volume is expected over the next five years.

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