On Sunday, the nation will celebrate the first anniversary of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, and Ohio officials report that it’s been a success in the Buckeye State.
On average, more than 12,000 Ohioans per month who are experiencing or affected by suicidal, mental health or substance use crises have used the lifeline to receive free, 24/7, confidential support and connections to local resources.
Governor Mike DeWine, joined by Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss, and Ohio 988 Administrator Doug Jackson, last week recognized the positive impact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has had following one year of state-and-nationwide implementation.
The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides residents with one, easy to remember three-digit number to call – 988 – when they or someone they know is in crisis.
“The 988 hot line is someone to call and someone to respond, making help more visible, accessible, and effective for Ohioans who are in a behavioral health crisis,” said Criss, who has been provided $46.5 million in state funding for the next two years. “We know from research that approximately 80 precent of behavioral health crises can be resolved through a phone conversation, which helps reduce pressures on law enforcement, local jails and emergency departments.”
Ohio’s 19 call centers cover all 88 counties, ensuring a localized approach to answering Ohioans’ calls. Ohio call centers are also answering calls quickly with an average speed to answer rate of 19 seconds, compared to 35 seconds nationally.
Nearly 90 percent of calls are answered in state, with under 2 percent rolling over to a national backup center. State leaders acknowledged the frontline call specialists are foundational to the successful launch of 988.
In the past year, more than 400 full-time and part-time staff members in Ohio have been trained to respond to 988 callers. Call specialists have a wide range of backgrounds and education, including people with lived experiences, licensed social workers and counselors, and recent college and high school graduates who have received the needed training.
OhioMHAS hosts monthly touch-base meetings with Ohio’s call centers to identify and integrate a shared set of best practices that can be implemented across Ohio’s provider network, when answering 988 calls, chats, and texts.
“Ohio’s call center staff are truly unsung heroes. They work around the clock to help Ohioans in crisis. We are grateful for their dedicated service and look forward to continuing to partner with them to strengthen and improve our response network,” said 988 Administrator Doug Jackson. “We knew this first year would provide us with a great deal of insights and learning opportunities that were important to document and use in evaluations as 988 grows and becomes a more widely known and used resource.”