Washington implementing new crisis phone line, 988, to complement 911 services
Washington will debut the crisis phone line 988 in mid-July following Congress’ decision to pass the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act in 2020.
Acting as a complement to the current 911 emergency line, all states will be required to launch the new 988 number by July 16.
“When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing network,” a press release from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline read. “These trained counselors will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.”
Washington State legislature passed House Bill 1477 in 2021 to further develop the plan with funding from a tax on phone and internet lines.
The goal for Washington will be to simplify the process to provide clear and precise help to those in need. Any regional hotlines in existence prior to the existence of 988 will still be active, as calls will be forwarded through a chain of command. Each hotline in the state will be working alongside each other, according to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Merging and integrating all the various crisis response systems across the state will be a complicated process both in the short and long term, but those developing the hotline believe it will eventually lead to an expansive behavioral health system that could potentially schedule and set up in-person visits as soon as the following day from the reported phone call.
Depression in the U.S. has climbed 2% over the last nine years, affecting 19.5% of Americans in 2021, according to the United Health Foundation. The number comes from a percentage of adults who reported being told by a health professional that they have a depressive disorder including depression, major depression, minor depression, or dysthymia.
In 2021, Washington reported 23.4% of adults suffered some form of depression, the 7th highest state in the nation. Only West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama had a higher rate.