On July 16, the 988 three-digit dialing code will launch in the United States (U.S.), offering the public easy-to-access lifesaving mental health resources. 988 will replace the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)
In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes—and for people aged 10 to 34 years old in Utah, suicide is a leading cause of death. Additionally, from April 2020-2021, more than 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses. The demand for convenient crisis services in the U.S. is high, and the vision for 988 is to provide a fully transformed crisis care system that will provide 24/7, no-cost, and confidential support to anyone experiencing mental health-related distress.
The Utah Crisis Line operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and is managed and staffed by certified crisis workers at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI). In fiscal year 2021 (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021), HMHI fielded more than 92,532 calls and made 1,353 lifesaving interventions, according to the Crisis Services Annual Report. That amounted to a 32% year-over-year growth in total calls to the Utah Crisis Line compared to fiscal year 2020. In fiscal year 2022, the Utah Crisis Line received 102,742 calls – an 11% increase in calls for support year over year – and anticipates doubling the call volume with the roll-out of 988.
"We’ve worked for the past two years to ensure we are adequately staffed and resourced so that as more people are aware of 988, we can be appropriately prepared to meet the demand and still ensure quality," said Mark H. Rapaport, MD, CEO of Huntsman Mental Health Institute. "As the three-digit number becomes ubiquitous, it will help reduce stigma around seeking support for mental health services and improve access to care by being easier to remember in a crisis. We know there will be bugs to work out along the way, but our goal is to make sure callers are supported and to offer hope and ongoing resources for healing."
988 Fast Facts
What Is 988?
988 is confidential, no-cost, and available 24/7/365, connecting those experiencing mental health, substance use, or suicidal crises with trained crisis counselors. Access is available through every landline, cell phone, and voice-over-internet device in the United States. 988 call services will be available in Spanish along with interpretation services in over 150 languages. Learn more.
Is 988 like 911?
988 services are distinct and separate from the emergency medical and public safety response associated with 911. 988 crisis counselors are trained to use the least-invasive interventions (call, text, or chat) to connect callers to the help they need. However, ongoing coordination between 988 and 911 is critical to connecting callers to additional emergency services when needed.
What does this mean for Utahns?
988 now becomes the primary number that will directly route callers in need to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network and Utah’s integrated crisis response system staffed by certified crisis workers at Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the University of Utah.
Callers to 988 will have the option to select the Veterans Crisis Line or the Spanish Language Crisis Line. If the caller with a Utah area code does not select either of those options, they will be routed to Utah Crisis Line. If after three minutes the call is unanswered by a live person, the caller is routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) backup affiliate network.
Callers connected to the Utah Crisis Line will receive specialized, individualized support from certified crisis workers trained in suicide prevention, de-escalation, and stabilization and get connected to mental health resources. The Utah Crisis Line will continue to work closely with the Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT) across the state to support in-person crisis intervention.
What about SafeUT?
SafeUT is a distinct app and integrated system of care available 24/7 and managed by HMHI master’s level mental health counselors that coordinate closely with school administrators, and local law enforcement (as needed for high-risk safety concerns). SafeUT is a different system of care, staffing model, and method for accessing mental health crisis care (smartphone app vs. chat, text, and phone call through 988). SafeUT users can start a real-time chat with mental health counselors, report a confidential school safety concern through the "Submit a Tip" feature, or start a call through the app that connects to the Utah Crisis Line directly. Students, parents, and educators should continue to use SafeUT for the most school-specific response that aligns with existing safety protocols and practices. SafeUT is available for any size crisis, any time, and can be downloaded at no-cost on any app store. Learn more at safeut.org.