suicide prevention

Conn. Mental Health Advocates Prepare for 988 Rollout

Effective Saturday, July 16, people will be able to dial 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

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From ten digits to three, getting help for those in a mental health crisis just got simpler.

Starting July 16, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) will have a shorter, three-digit dialing code: 988. As people begin to utilize this new mental health tool, Senator Chris Murphy and advocates gathered Friday to better understand the different crisis lines out there.

"A lot of folks in Connecticut are going to hear a lot of national conversations about 988. It risks being confusing for people. It risks being confusing for veterans," Murphy said.

Dialing 211 will also connect people to a trained specialist in the state. The 24/7 service, which is part of United Way of Connecticut, gets roughly 140,000 calls from youth and adults every year.

The hotline also has the fourth highest answering rate in the country, tied with Washington, D.C.

"For June, 98% of calls that come into the lifeline are answered within eight seconds," said Tanya Barrett, 211 Connecticut's senior vice president.

Barrett said callers should notice no difference between calling 211 or 988 for support.

This means they'll be directed to a live and trained crisis specialist. Texts and chats will be directed at the national level. The state plans to implement this feature at the local level in 2023.

Veterans will have the option to dial "1" to speak with the Veteran's Crisis Line for specific care.

"We get some clients at their worst state," said Daniel Walsh from Veterans Inc.

The New Britain-based nonprofit supports homeless veterans, a population that is at a greater risk of suicide than the general population. The goal is to get these vets housed and stable in 90 days. Having served in the military for more than 25 years, Walsh said the new number will be a big help. 

"988 will be a streamline not just for veterans, but anyone who is in a mental health crisis," Walsh said.

Murphy's Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which passed in June, includes $150 million to support the 988 rollout.

While the new 988 number will become active tomorrow, people will still be able to dial 211 or 1-800-273-8255. The 7-digit hotline will not be deactivated during the transition to 988.

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