TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) — The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has seen a 27% increase in call volume since it first went online six months ago in July of 2022.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s Office says the hotline is estimated to reach 120,000 Kansans in the hotline’s first full year of operation. 988 was chosen because it is believed to be an easy number for people to remember during a crisis like 911. The hotline is federally funded.

“The successes we are seeing with the implementation of 988 are a reflection that when Kansas leaders come together to invest in mental health, more Kansans can access essential care,” Gov. Kelly said. “I continue to encourage Kansans to tell their families, friends, and neighbors that this resource is here for them whenever they need it.”

Suicide prevention advocates say this is the result they expected to see. “When we look at that 27% increase, those folks were always calling for help or at least needing it. So, those calls either went unanswered or went to 911, which tied up resources that weren’t necessarily designed for a mental health crisis,” said Bailey Blair, President of the Kansas Suicide Prevention Coalition.

The 988 line can also accept text messages. Those who call or text will be connected to a local crisis center for help.

Sedgwick County COMCARE handles the calls that come in locally to 988.

“We are adding more positions. So, we have 8 full-time positions and 5 part-time positions so that we can hopefully increase the number of calls that are answered here locally,” explained Regina Hafner-Stout, Program Manager of the Community Crisis Center or COMCARE. “We are also adding additional positions for our mobile crisis response so, providing crisis intervention in someone’s home. So they can reach out to 988, and we can dispatch a clinician or integrated care specialist to help resolve that crisis.”

Advocates are pleased with the progress but say it’s not the end.

“We do anticipate this to keep growing, and we have to meet that need with trained professionals who are prepared to receive that information and act accordingly,” Blair said.

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