988 mental health crisis hotline to launch nationwide and in Texas amid staffing shortages


Boram Kim


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) will launch 988, the country’s new mental health crisis line, on July 16th. The 3-digit number will replace the previous 10-digit number (1-800-273-8255), making it easier to remember and access for people in need. 


Stay one step ahead. Join our email list for the latest news.



Despite the Saturday launch date, nationwide staffing shortages have authorities concerned that the hotline will be unable to adequately support calls. 

Axios reports that Texas is facing a staffing shortage at its centers, with only 127 full-time crisis counselors manning phones at its 5 call centers. The centers handle calls to support people in crisis, encompassing all mental health care concerns including suicide, addiction, and severe mental illness.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Texas answers the third highest number of NSPL calls in the country, with more than 152,000 calls routed through the centers every year.  

The in-state answer rate—the number of calls from Texans answered by state call centers—rose from 23% in January 2017 to 56% in May, according to Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit that administers the national lifeline. According to an NPR report, Texas has the second-to-worst call answer rate in the country, with about 60% of calls being redirected to other states.  

Texas centers answered close to 60,000 in-state NSPL calls in 2021, a 92% increase from calls in 2018. 

A recent Rand report found that nearly half of the surveyed officials at the nation’s 200 agencies responsible for deploying the new 988 national suicide prevention and mental health hotline were confident their centers had the necessary staff, financing, or equipment.