Wisconsin prepares for new 988 suicide prevention hotline to launch Saturday
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A new universal suicide crisis hotline is launching for those dealing with mental health emergencies.
The phone number is 988 and will be available to dial in every state starting on Saturday, July 16.
On Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin explained what the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is, and what the transition will look like by dialing the three-digit number.
“What we know from mental health and substance use and crisis trends over the decades, people with crises are either maintaining or increasing and they need places to go for that,” said Caroline Crehan Neumann, Crisis Services Coordinator of Wisconsin DHS.
Starting Saturday, the 988 crisis lifeline will offer free and 24/7 confidential support, for people of all ages who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, a mental health and/or substance crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. The new three-digit number will replace and transition into the already existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Wisconsinites calling 988 will connect with Wisconsin Lifeline, where trained counselors will answer calls, texts, and chats from 988lifeline.org.
The Wisconsin Lifeline also has some bilingual counselors and staff, as well as several interpreters for over 90 languages who are available 24/7.
“The nationwide transition to 988, an easy-to-remember 3-digit number, will provide greater access to counseling services across our state and country and will undoubtedly save lives,” Governor Tony Evers said in a statement.
Wisconsin Lifeline is operated by Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, based in Green Bay, and serves all residents throughout the state with its 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline support center.
Shelly Missall, the Outreach Coordinator for Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin says they feel comfortable with the amount of staff they have to support the lifeline.
“We are hiring actively and continue to hire every month. So, we are continuing to add staff to build capacity, and right now we are working out of a physical call center in Green Bay, but we do hope to add the capacity to have remote work as well in the future,” Missall said.
To help with the launch of the lifeline, the state received a federal grant, which Family Services will receive more than half of to help build capacity.
“That’s about $1.7 million over two years and the primary focus of that grant is capacity building. A minimum of 85% of those grant dollars are going directly to Family Services,” Neumann said.
Neumann says 85% of the grant will allow Family Services to hire additional counselors and expand their call center to deal with the expected increase in calls.
For more information on the 988 lifeline, click here.
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