Kentucky’s 988 suicide prevention lifeline marks six months, records 26% increase in monthly calls

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The 988 service, which allows Kentuckians in crisis to connect with suicide prevention, mental health and substance abuse counselors in their area by calling the three-digit number from any phone, is being touted as a success.

“It is providing help to more people than ever before,” said Gov. Andy Beshear in marking the six-month anniversary of 988 service in Kentucky.

He termed it the mental health version of 911, designed to send callers to people who are specifically trained to help with the mental health crisis.

(Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

“Since making the switch from the ten-digit national suicide lifeline, trained counselors have responded to an average of 2,420 calls per month,” Beshear noted. “This means that since 988 was instituted, we’ve had a 26% increase in calls per month, in comparison to the first half of 2022.”

Even with more calls, the service has still been able to handle the increase in traffic, according to Beshear.

“We’ve seen a 14% decrease in abandoned calls, because you’re not having to wait as long,” Beshear said. “Ninety-two percent of call centers across the state have answered in less than 20 seconds. You don’t want to have somebody on hold when they’re going through a mental health crisis. This is great news. It means the 988 helpline is working, and I’m proud of everyone who came together and made this possible.”

The launch was made possible by a two-year, $1.16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, through American Rescue Plan Act funding. The current state budget includes $19.6 million over a two-year period to support increased capacity and infrastructure for 988.

Despite it being a nationwide service, calling 988 connects you to one of 13 regional call centers around Kentucky.

Beshear said, “Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. We all go through difficult times, and sometimes we go through trauma that our bodies and our minds are not designed to take. So please reach out. These are people who have trained and who have helped other people. They are ready to help you through your most difficult times.”

He added, “There are people out there who love you. Whether it feels like it or not, they love you, they want you to be with them the next day, the next year, and next decade. If you need help please call 988. There’s no stigma, no shame. Just a community and Commonwealth that loves you and wants you to get the help that you need.”

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