PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A lifesaving resource launches this weekend and a Portland organization has helped push it to the forefront of the nation’s mental health response.
The 988 Crisis Lifeline is live now, and will be completely launched on Saturday, the deadline the federal government gave telecommunications providers to implement the new line. In Oregon, it’s been mostly functional since last fall.
Lines for Life, a non-profit dedicated to providing help for people suffering from suicidal thoughts or substance abuse, helped lobby for the creation of the new three-digit lifeline, replacing 1-800-273-8255. The 1-800 number will still be active as part of the new crisis life line.
“We’re leaning into the notion that it’s okay to have a bad day, it’s okay to struggle and need help for it,” said Dwight Holton, the CEO for Lines for Life.
The 988 lifeline will expand on suicide prevention services, providing help for anyone struggling with mental health issues of any kind.
Rusha Grinstead is the 988 Behavioral Health Crisis System Lead for the Oregon Health Authority and says it provides a continuum of care.
“We’re starting from a phone call, you’re then connected to another level of services, and then connect it to another level of service and then you have follow up within your community to prevent a future crisis,” Grinstead said.
People can also text 988, a service Grinstead said can help reach more youth, people who are not in a situation to call, as well as expand accessibility to people who are hearing or speech impaired.
The 24/7 availability of the lifeline will continue. Lines for Life will take calls mostly from Oregon, but can also take calls nationally, part of a network of call centers across the center. Grinstead says the call takers are trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation.
“They’re trained to really understand the situation and the state of mind that the individual or the family is in and why they’re seeking help,” she said.
In the first half of 2020, Oregonians made more than 30,000 calls to the life line. Lines for Life has taken more than 140,000 calls per year. Because of an easier number to remember and more services offered, Holton has been told by the federal government to expect calls to double.
He’s added call takers to meet the demand. He reports 95 percent of people are helped with the person they first connect with on the life line, and he believes it’s because they provide a path to hope.
“We don’t think about hope like it’s kind of a greeting care slogan,” Holton said, “For us, hope is an evidence-based strategy. It’s a way of building a path for someone to find meaning and purpose and connection with people.”