DENVER (KDVR) — Starting Saturday, Americans will have a new streamlined way to talk to mental health professionals when in a crisis, as access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be as easy as dialing 988.
Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners, a non-profit that already operates the Colorado Crisis Service line, has been ramping up staffing and recruiting across the state to hire nearly 200 employees to keep up with anticipated demand and increased calls for mental health services with the launch of 988. The non-profit’s goal was to double its operational size, to try to reach the demand.
“Building our team has certainly been a challenge, given that we’re in a pandemic and given the demand for behavioral health care and peer specialists throughout the state of Colorado,” said RMCP CEO Bev Marquez.
Marquez said the statewide recruitment was a success, although they are still looking for frontline team members and supervisors. They plan to answer 80% of the calls routed to Colorado, with the remaining 20% handled by other call centers throughout the country.
Colorado is unique since the statewide crisis line has been operational since 2014, so the infrastructure is already there to ramp up operations for increased demand. The challenge will be anticipated volume. Marquez said they currently field roughly 48,000 calls per year just on the national number. With the ease of 988, they expect the calls from the national line to grow to 270,000 calls per year.
“This is really about our callers and them having easier access to services when they need them. I worry a bit about the expectation that they may have in terms of what the experience will be,” Marquez said. “988 is not 911. It’s not intended to be a 911 system in terms of 100% live answer, in terms of the average call being 90 seconds to a couple of minutes in terms of getting out to the scene.”
Marquez said 988 will be the place to call if you have a behavioral health or crisis concern and you need to talk to a professional about it. You or a loved one may be suicidal, and the professionals at the other end of that call can help. The average call they answer now is roughly 16 minutes.
The Colorado Crisis Services line will not go away with the launch of 988. It will still exist as a direct resource for Coloradans in a crisis. If your area code is from out of state, calling 988 will direct you to a call center from your cell phone’s area code. While you will receive help, you may not be pointed to local resources as efficiently here in Colorado.
Coloradans in a crisis should save the local lifeline at 844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 as a backup, or call directly if you’re looking for local resources.