Governor Dan McKee announced that the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline answered more than 6,000 calls during its first year of operation in Rhode Island, significantly increasing the number of people being connected to mental health resources even as the state continued to have one of the highest local answer rates in the nation.
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Rhode Island fielded 6,285 988 calls from July 2022 through June 2023, a 58 percent increase over the 3,986 calls fielded during the previous year through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline before the launch of 988.
At the same time, Rhode Island was at or near the top nationwide each month for the percentage of 988 calls answered in state and average speed to answer, meaning a greater likelihood of connecting callers with the help they need.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline went live in July 2022, providing access to help previously available through a 10 digit national Lifeline number and a local Rhode Island number.
Legislation to create the 988 Lifeline was spearheaded by U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who advocated for the importance of having a three digit number that would make it easier for people to seek help.
Nationwide, the 988 Lifeline fielded nearly 5 million calls, texts, and chats during its first year, helping people through a network of more than 200 local and state crisis centers.
Here in Rhode Island, 988 calls, texts, and chats go to a trained 988 staff that is backed up by BH Link, the state’s one-stop 24/7 behavioral health triage/crisis center, which in addition to the 988 call center has clinicians, nurses, psychiatrists, peer specialists, and case managers who can help people and connect them to the most appropriate care.
The Rhode Island call center has consistently been the best or among the best in the nation for answering local calls, with at least 95 percent answered each month during the first year of 988.
Approximately 42 percent of those calls resulted in specific behavioral health and or community resources provided, and less than 2 percent resulted in first responder dispatch. ■