Colorado joined the rest of the United States on July 16th in operationalizing the 988 suicide and crisis prevention lifeline, a new, three-digit number for call (multiple languages), text, or chat (English only) that connects people in crisis to local extensions of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
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In the first week of service, the state’s Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) said call volumes to crisis call centers were higher than the weekly average of 1,000 calls but that they had the appropriate staffing to support the demand. Colorado’s 988 calls registered 1,088 exchanges in the first 6 days of service, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners (RMCP) is Colorado’s local Lifeline call center. RMCP is currently looking to hire and train more remote and in-person call center specialists who can adequately support all mental health care concerns including suicide, addiction, and severe mental illness.
BHA says Colorado Lifeline call centers are actively engaged with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Federal Communication Commission, and partners across the country to determine the appropriate solutions for call routing.
“Shortening the number and opening the caller population to people who are experiencing any type of crisis, not limited to suicidal ideation, is groundbreaking. There is no crisis too small to connect with 988,” said BHA Commissioner Dr. Morgan Medlock.
The BHA said Colorado will not publicly market 988 until the summer of 2023 and instead look to strengthen and expand the current Lifeline crisis center infrastructure and capacity in the short term.
Colorado, like the rest of the country, has been experiencing issues with managing call volume due to shortages in call handlers. A recent report found that only around half of the surveyed officials at the nation’s 200 agencies responsible for deploying 988 were confident their centers had the necessary staff, financing, or equipment.
The BHA said that while 988 is an innovative service that should positively impact caller experiences across the country, the full vision of a transformed crisis care system will take time to scale and build.