Beginning July 16, the soft launch begins for 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Published: Jul. 15, 2022 at 9:38 PM EDT
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(WBNG) - “If you were experiencing a heart attack, you would call 911 or you would have your loved one call 911,” said the Broome County Commissioner of Social Services and Mental Health, Nancy Williams. “If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, it’s the same thing. Reach out, help is available, you don’t need to suffer alone.”

July 16 marks the soft launch for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. With this switch to a three-digit contact, the hope is to make local mental health services and support easy to access.

“In New York State, we’re actually involved in what’s called a soft launch, which means all existing crisis lines will still be operational. So if someone calls 988 or they call the National Suicide Hotline, they will get assistance either way,” said Williams. She believes the soft launch in New York State will be around for the next year.”

Beginning Saturday, anyone around the nation can call, text, or even chat online to address a mental health situation that they themselves or someone they know is experiencing.

At the state level, Katerina Gaylord, the assistant director of crisis services with the Office of Mental Health, breaks down how calls are taken from those on the receiving end. “Across New York, we have 13 dedicated 988 crisis contact centers to support the 62 counties in New York,” she said. “Any call that initiates from a New York State area code will be routed to a New York State contact center.”

At the centers, crisis counselors will be around to offer positive words and to direct to local resources, if needed. According to Gaylord, the contact center that serves Broome County is contacted out of Syracuse.

“We can’t really separate physical health from mental health. It’s all connected and we do know there are high rates of suicide across the nation, high rates of drug overdoses,” said Williams. “So to be able to have that focus, I believe it will reduce the stigma and hopefully it will lead to more people accessing services.

Gaylord says you don’t usually have to disclose your name if you don’t wish to. For more information on the soft launch, make your way to this website.

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