A KFF analysis finds that outreach to the new 988 number for the national suicide prevention and crisis hotline increased after its implementation in mid-July, then steadied until December 2022, when it rose again. Text volume increased more than 700 percent compared to the year prior but remains a smaller share of overall outreach.
Since the launch of 988, Lifeline has received over 2.1 million contacts—consisting of over 1.43 million calls, over 416,000 chats, and more than 281,000 texts.
The easy-to-remember three-digit number steers callers who are suicidal or experiencing a behavioral health crisis to the renamed 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, where they can be connected to a local Lifeline counselor and may receive crisis counseling, resources, and referrals. Before 988, the Lifeline crisis hotline–established in 2005–was typically accessed through a 10-digit number, which was difficult for callers experiencing a mental health crisis to recall.
The analysis shows that nationally, about 10 percent of calls are transferred to out-of-state overflow facilities and 11 percent are abandoned by the caller. However, the 988 in-state answer rate varies widely across states. In December 2022, in-state answer rates ranged from a low of 51 percent to 69 percent in seven states to a high of 90 percent to 98 percent in 13 states.
As states debate their FY 2024 budgets, long-term funding of local 988 crisis call centers may become an issue. Although the federal government spent money to assist with the implementation of 988, ongoing funding relies heavily on local and state funds. To date, five states have chosen to enact legislation for 988 telecommunication fees that could provide ongoing funding for local crisis call centers. Longer term, additional state and national crisis center metrics related to the referral source, reason, outcome and user experience of using 988 may help inform the 988 implementation and future program improvements.