By Grace Deng
Washington State Standard 

More people are calling the 988 suicide crisis hotline

State leaders are seeking more support and funding for the program.

 

December 21, 2023



If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.

The number of Washington residents calling the state’s 988 suicide prevention hotline has climbed in the past year and is expected to keep rising, prompting Gov. Jay Inslee to request more money for the program.

Around 7,000 to 8,600 Washington residents a month have called the 988 suicide hotline and in the past year, according to a November report from the state Department of Health and the Health Care Authority. Since the line launched last July, calls are up 40%, texts 670% and chats 124% as more people have become aware of the services, the report says.

Calls totaled 8,616 in June 2023, the most recent month the report covers. Of those calls, 6,807 came in on the main line, 1,726 to a specialized Veterans Crisis Line and 83 to a Spanish-speaking line.

“These metrics show the need and demand for crisis services by people in Washington state,” the report said.

Suicide rates in the United States climbed to a record high in 2022, with nearly 50,000 Americans dying by suicide, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state Legislature passed bills in 2021 and 2023 to implement and expand the 988 hotline program and related services in Washington state. The 2021 bill, HB 1477, established a tax on phone lines to fund expanded behavioral health services.

Washington raised nearly $60 million through the phone line tax in fiscal years 2022-23. The state spent close to $15 million over that time running the 988 program.

The report cautions that spending is likely to accelerate as more people learn about the hotline.

 

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