988 Suicide & Crisis Phone Number Goes Live: Nationwide & In Alaska

988: the three-digit dialing code for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline goes live this week      July 13, 2022, ANCHORAGE – In Alaska and acro...

988: the three-digit dialing code for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline goes live this week 

 

 

July 13, 2022, ANCHORAGE – In Alaska and across the nation, callers can soon dial 988, an easy-to-remember three-digit dialing code, to connect to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s network of highly trained and compassionate call center professionals. 

The implementation of this dialing code becomes operational across Alaska and nationwide on July 16, 2022, and is the result of a 2020 congressional decision designating 988 as the dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (the Lifeline)

Callers in Alaska who dial 988 from a 907 area code will be connected to Careline Alaska where a trained crisis counselor will provide confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone of any age, including non-English speakers and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Counselors are trained to respond to crisis, provide emotional support and connect callers with local resources.

Efforts to implement 988 in Alaska began in April 2021, with the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) leading a collaborative statewide planning process.  
“Engagement from stakeholders across our diverse state has shaped Alaska’s 988 implementation, ensuring that Alaskans experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, thoughts of suicide or emotional distress, can easily access help. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need support,” said Leah Van Kirk, statewide suicide prevention coordinator with DBH. “Numerous partners contributed to planning for 988, including behavioral health service providers, law enforcement, tribal organizations, telecommunications companies, suicide prevention organizations and advocates, Alaska’s crisis call center, and state and local government agencies. Our collaborative work will continue as we implement this national initiative, strengthening our current resources to meet the unique needs of all Alaskans.” 

“We’re excited to announce 988 will soon be available to Alaskans statewide. Careline Crisis Intervention, Inc. will answer 988 calls, texts and chats, and continue to answer Alaska Careline calls (877-266-HELP),” said Alaska Department of Health Commissioner Adam Crum. “Please help us spread the word that 988 will soon be available. You can call 988 or Careline; there is no wrong door to seek help. The Alaska Careline is a member of the Lifeline and will continue to serve as both a crisis line and the ‘someone to talk to’ line for Alaskans. 988 will be an easy-to-remember number for Alaskans in crisis.” 

Nationally, the suicide rate has climbed nearly 30% since 1999 and Alaska continues to have among the highest per capita suicide rates in the nation. 988 will help prevent suicide by expanding existing resources; its implementation is happening alongside large-scale system reform efforts in Alaska and nationwide to improve crisis response systems, mental health and substance misuse supports, as well as suicide prevention efforts.  

“Alaska is joining states and territories across the nation in transition to the easy-to-remember, three-digit number for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.  This is a top priority for me and our entire leadership here at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and SAMHSA Administrator Miriam Delphin-Rittmon. “I am committed to continued work with our national partners to achieve a smooth transition, and I greatly appreciate the partnership with our state and tribal leaders in Alaska. Thank you to the crisis center and behavioral health professionals who are working hard at the local level to support people, prevent suicides and save lives.”

“The goal of 988 is to provide a simple and direct way for Alaskans to immediately access professional mental health support in a time of need,” added Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority Chief Executive Officer Steve Williams. “An effectively resourced 988 Lifeline can truly save lives; it connects a person in a mental health crisis or contemplating suicide to a trained counselor who can address their immediate needs and help connect them to ongoing care. In addition, by promoting 988 and talking about the importance of the Lifeline we can also help end the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.”    

To learn more about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in Alaska, visit 988.alaska.gov. At this site you can find videos, fact sheets and other resources about 988 in Alaska, as well as information about suicide warning signs and suicide prevention resources. 

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or the Alaska Careline at 877-266-HELP and starting July 16, you can also dial 988.  


 You Can Call 988 In A Suicide & Crisis Emergency 

988 banner

July 11, 2022

Dear Community Partners,

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is coming to Alaska! On behalf of Alaska’s 988 Coalition, the Alaska Department of Health plans to send out a press release just prior to the July 16 nationwide launch to announce 988 to the public. We're calling it our "soft launch" while we plan for a larger media campaign and celebratory event in September during Suicide Prevention Month. Please join us in September to help amplify news about 988. 

The purpose of this email is to share information with you prior to the public announcement, so you can help prepare and educate your communities about 988 in Alaska. We are excited to be at this point – and invite you to join us in sharing this positive news. Please visit 988.alaska.gov for shareable messaging resources to help prepare for the implementation of 988. 

Since the Lifeline began in 2005, it has served as an invaluable resource, helping thousands of people overcome suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress every day.  With the transition to the 988 number, these life-saving services will be even easier to reach.  The need to increase access is clear:

  •  In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes.
  •  In 2020, the rate of suicide in Alaska was more than double the national rate.
  •  Youth and young adults in Alaska have some of the highest rates of suicide in the nation.
  •  For people ages 10–34, suicide is a leading cause of death. 
  •  From April 2020 through April 2021, over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. 

Behind each of these data points, there are people, families and communities who have been impacted. Yet in the face of these urgent realities, there is hope. 

On July 16, 2022, the 988-dialing code will become the new three-digit number that connects people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for calls (multiple languages), texting or chats (English only and available through the Lifeline's website.) The Lifeline offers compassionate and accessible services for anyone having thoughts of suicide, experiencing mental health or substance use crises, and mental health–related distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. 

Alaskans who dial 988 from the 907 area code will be connected with the Alaska Careline, a member of the Lifeline and an in-state call center where trained counselors answer calls, chats, and texts.

Before July 16, 2022, please continue to call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-877-266-HELP (4357) to reach the Alaska Careline. Both numbers will still work after July 16 – and so will 988! 

In preparation for the transition of the Lifeline to 988, the federal government and partners from the public and private sector have worked together to provide resources for 988 to make our work educating the public about 988 a little easier.

  • 988 Messaging Framework: The framework developed by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention provides strategies related to the timing of messaging before and after the transition to 988 in July, how 988 works locally, and tailoring 988-related messages for specific audiences. 
  • 988 Partner Toolkit, at gov/988: The toolkit provides key messagesFAQslogo and brand guidelines for SAMHSA’s 988 implementation partners—including crisis call centers, state mental health programs, substance use treatment providers, behavioral health systems, and others. SAMHSA will add social media posts, wallet cards, magnets, and other materials about 988 to the toolkit over time. 
  • 988 Implementation Guidance Playbooks: SAMHSA has worked with partners to create a holistic view of readiness for the implementation of 988 for states, territories, tribes, crisis contact centers, public safety answering points (PSAPs) and behavioral health providers. 

While this is an exciting time to reimagine how we transform crisis services in the U.S., 988 at its core will not be built overnight. Transformation of this scale will take time, and we must all work together to make it happen. It is important to communicate clearly about 988 and how it will work. As SAMHSA continues updating its partner toolkit and providing guidance on 988 implementation, we look forward to working with all of you to bring these critical services to our community. 

If you have questions or concerns, you can reach Alaska’s 988 Coalition by emailing Leah Van Kirk, the statewide suicide prevention program coordinator with the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health at leah.vankirk@alaska.gov

Thank you and best wishes, 

Alaska’s 988 Coalition 

 

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