988 suicide-and-crisis lifeline is free and available to anyone in crisis; calls have increased 23% since launch nine months ago

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky calls to 988, the short, easy-to-remember crisis hotline for mental health, have increased by 23% since it rolled out nine months ago, and there have been 15% fewer abandoned calls, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.

“More people are calling and more people are staying on and talking to someone that can help,” Beshear said at his weekly news conference Thursday. “This means Kentuckians facing a risk of suicide, mental-health distress or an addiction crisis are getting connected with compassionate trained counselors more often and faster than ever before. ”

988 is confidential and accepts calls, texts, and chats from anyone who needs support for a suicidal, mental-health and/or substance-use crisis.

It is available 24 hours a day, every day and is free of charge. It is available to people of all ages in crisis, and to family members and loved ones seeking guidance.

“Our first mission is to be here,” says Kentucky’s 988 website. “So often, the lifeline is about listening and providing an understanding voice. In fact, 95% of lifeline calls are resolved over the phone. But when that’s not enough, we’ll ensure the warmest possible handoff of 988 callers within Kentucky’s crisis service system.”
Most of Kentucky’s 988 calls go to one of the state’s 13 regional mental-health agencies; callers are connected to the center that is closest to them.

According to state data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Kentucky’s 988 call centers got 2,888 calls in March and 78% of them were answered in-state.

SAMHSA says Kentucky calls are answered, on average, in 25 seconds, The national average is 35 seconds and the average talk time is just over 13 minutes.

“That shows that 988 is working and has been a great improvement,” said Beshear. “I want to thank all of our partners and mental health advocates across the state and beyond who have worked so hard to make this possible. This administration will always support Kentuckians as they seek health care. We believe that mental health is just as important as physical health, and this is helping us to be able to intervene and ensure that we don’t lose people.”

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