New Montana 988 suicide prevention lifeline will support Montanans in mental health distress
THE OFFICE OF GOV. GREG GIANFORTE
HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte today joined Department of Public Health and Human Services officials, mental health and crisis lifeline experts, and Montana State University officials to promote the launch of the Montana 988 Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline.
“As we all know, Montana faces a tragic epidemic of suicide, devastating far too many families and communities,” Gianforte said. “Thanks to heroic Montanans answering the call to serve others in crisis, this new 988 Lifeline number will help save lives. To any Montanan who might be struggling, know that you are not alone, and you can find folks ready to help by dialing 988.”
Montana 988 is part of the National 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline network of over 200 local, independent crisis centers equipped to help people in mental health related distress or experiencing a suicidal crisis 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across the U.S.
While serving in Congress, then-Rep. Gianforte, introduced the bill to designate the new, easy-to-remember 988 number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The 988 Lifeline will launch Saturday, July 16, 2022. Veterans who dial 988 will be given a prompt to dial “1” to be routed to the Veteran Crisis Line.
Calls made to 988 in Montana are routed to one of three independent crisis call centers: Voices of Hope in Great Falls, The Help Center in Bozeman, and the Western Montana Mental Health Lifeline Call Center in Missoula.
“Together, these crisis call centers provide coverage to every county in Montana,” DPHHS Director Adam Meier said. “It’s important for people to know that when they call 988, more than 90 percent of the time, they will be connected to a trained mental health and crisis counselor who works in one of the Montana call centers.”
Over the past three years, the Montana crisis call centers have averaged about 10,000 calls per year. More than 90 percent of the calls made in Montana are answered in Montana, with fewer than ten percent sent to another call center in the national network backup system.
To help further bolster call center capacity, DPHHS will use a nearly $400,000 grant to maintain staffing levels to manage call capacity at more than 90 percent with the transition to 988.
Speaking to the importance of those calling 988 being connected to fellow Montanans, Matt Kuntz, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-MT), said, “This is important because these individuals are very familiar with the local community mental health resources. When an individual, friend, or family member places that important call to the Lifeline, time is of the essence. Those answering the Lifeline play such a crucial role.”
According to the National Association on Mental Illness, about 163,000 Montanans have a mental health condition, and more than 573,000 Montanans live in an area where there is a shortage of mental health professionals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Montana is third in the nation in per capita suicides, and suicide is one of the leading causes of death in our state.More details on the 988 Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline can be found here. Additional suicide prevention information and resources are also available on the DPHHS website.