Governor Andy Beshear announced on Monday that Kentucky has launched the new three-digit mental health crisis hotline – 988.
The new 988 lifeline is available 24 hours a day with counselors available to call, chat or text message directly. This is part of a nationwide departure from the 10-digit Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which remains available during the transition.
Kentucky 988 calls will be answered at one of 13 community mental health call centers in the state. Callers will be connected to the center that is closest to them.
This update of the lifeline comes at a critical time for Kentuckians, with suicide becoming the second-leading cause of death for youth and young adults in the state.
“The implementation of this new number comes during a time when Kentuckians are burdened with emotional strains and stressors in our communities,” said Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “[The 988 lifeline] will help ensure adequate access for all to mental health care, including residents of all ages living in all communities, as well as the underserved.”
In anticipation of more calls and texts, the state has increased support capacity with expectations of call volume quadrupling by the end of June 2023. Over the last three months, the 10-digit lifeline received nearly 6,000 calls from Kentucky.
“988 is not just a number, it’s a health system,” said Marcie Timmerman, executive director of Mental Health America of Kentucky. “In Kentucky, you’re going to reach a Kentucky community health center most of the time. There’s no barrier for you. 988 doesn’t charge for the phone call. These are ways to help on the ground that is fairly unique to Kentucky. We have those on-the-ground services being built up so that the right person comes and intervenes when it is needed.”