City of SLO prepares for launch of 988 suicide, crisis lifeline
New three-digit number can be used to call, text, or chat with mental health professionals
– The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is coming to California starting today. People can call or text 988 if they are having thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crises, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also call or text 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
“Having an easy-to-remember crisis resource like 988 is a great step towards getting people the help they need quickly,” said Keanu Morrison, EMT with the City of San Luis Obispo Mobile Crisis Unit. “One of our primary missions is to help connect individuals in crisis with the best resources to overcome their struggles, and the new lifeline will help us reach that goal.”
San Luis Obispo will join the rest of the United States in using the dialing code. The new three-digit number can be used to call, text, or chat with mental health professionals who can provide compassion, accessible care, and support to anyone experiencing mental health-related distress. Help through the call line is available in multiple languages.
Last month, the city began operating its Mobile Crisis Unit, a new pilot program that is also designed to support community members in crisis here in San Luis Obispo. Embedded in the city’s fire department, the mobile crisis unit pairs a mental health case worker from Transitions-Mental Health Association with an emergency medical technician from the city’s fire department. The unit is currently providing service Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, the city fire department may adjust hours to best meet the needs of the community in the future.
The unit provides on-call mental health services, including assessments, case management, rehabilitation services, crisis management, and coordination with or referral to other services. In just one week in June 2022, the crisis unit contacted 33 individuals, were dispatched to 15 calls for service and helped de-escalate eight mental health crises.
The 988 dialing code operates through what was formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a network of over 200 crisis call centers around the country. Congress designated 988 in 2020 and the lifeline is transitioning to the three-digit number on July 16, 2022. As a part of the federal government’s commitment to addressing the mental health crisis in America, unprecedented federal resources have been invested to scale up crisis centers in support of 988.
Currently, there are 13 lifeline call centers in California with the nearest one in Bakersfield. To support an influx of calls to California’s Lifeline call centers, the California Department of Health Care Services authorized $20 million last fall. The investment is a first step toward building a robust statewide call center network to support 988.
In the longer term, the vision for 988 is to build a robust crisis care response system across the country that links callers to community-based providers who can deliver a full range of crisis care services, if needed (like mobile crisis teams or stabilization centers), in addition to connecting callers to tools and resources that will help prevent future crisis situations. This more robust system will be essential to meeting crisis care needs across the nation. The vision is that there will be a day when everyone across our country has someone to call, someone to respond, and a safe place to go for crisis care.