NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: What you need to know about 988 launching Saturday

DENVER (KDVR) — Starting Saturday, Americans will have a new, simplified way to talk to mental health professionals in a crisis, as access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be as easy as dialing 988.

Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners, a nonprofit that already operates the Colorado Crisis Service line, has ramped up staffing and recruiting across the state to hire nearly 200 employees to meet projected demand and the increase in calls for mental health services with the launch of 988. The non-profit’s goal was to double its operational size, to try to meet the demand.

“Building our team has certainly been a challenge, given that we are in a pandemic and given the demand for behavioral healthcare and specialist peers across the state of Colorado,” said Bev Marquez, CEO of RMCP. .

Marquez said statewide recruiting was a success, although they are still looking for frontline team members and supervisors. They plan to answer 80% of calls routed to Colorado, with the remaining 20% ​​handled by other call centers across the country.

Colorado is unique in that the statewide crisis line has been operational since 2014, so the infrastructure is already there to expedite operations in the event of increased demand. The challenge will be anticipated volume. Marquez said they currently receive around 48,000 calls a year to the national number alone. With the ease of 988, they expect calls from the national line to reach 270,000 calls per year.

“It’s really about our callers and them having easier access to services when they need them. I worry a bit about the expectations they may have in terms of what the experience will be,” Marquez said. “988 is not 911. It is not intended to be a 911 system in terms of 100% live response, in terms of average call from 90 seconds to minutes to get to the scene .”

Marquez said 988 will be the place to call if you have a behavioral health issue or crisis and need to talk to a professional. You or a loved one may be suicidal, and the professionals on the other end of this call can help. The average call they answer now takes about 16 minutes.

The Colorado Crisis Services line will not disappear with the launch of 988. It will always exist as a direct resource for Coloradans in the event of a crisis. If your area code is from out of state, calling 988 will direct you to a call center from your cell phone area code. Although you will receive help, you may not be referred to local resources as effectively here in Colorado.

Coloradans in a crisis should register the local lifeline at 844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 as a backup, or call directly if looking for local resources.