988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

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Hope has a new number: 988

On July 16, 2022, the United States entered a new era of behavioral health with a new 3-digit number to access services: 988.  Any Tennessean can call 988 and be routed to their local call center for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Much like 911 did for emergency services, we believe this number will become a great resource for connecting people to the right treatment at the right time in the right setting. 

988 Offers 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress. That could be:

  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Mental health or substance use crisis, or
  • Any other kind of emotional distress

People can call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org for themselves or if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

988 Serves as a universal entry point so that no matter where you live, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help.  Want to learn more about 988?  Visit our partners at SAMHSA.org.

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How it works:

1.       Each county is designated a Primary Call Center where all calls are routed.

2.       If the call is not answered by the Primary Call Center within a specified timeframe, each county has a Backup Call Center.

3.       If neither answers the call within a specified timeframe the call is routed to one of the National Backup Call Centers.

For Text and Chat:

We have 24/7 coverage for text and chat.  These services are provided by three crisis centers in Tennessee covering all 95 counties.  Chats/texts are identified by state and routed to the appropriate in-state providers.

Tennessee's Preparations for 988

The state of Tennessee, TDMHSAS, our community mental health partners, consumers, advocates, and more prepared for the start of 988 for about two years before it went live on July 16, 2022.  Tennessee was already well-positioned for the transition to 988 thanks to our statewide mobile crisis system for adults and children and youth, our network of 8 Crisis Stabilization Units and Crisis Walk-In Centers, and our experience with the Statewide Crisis Line and National Suicide Prevention Line. 

The following timeline describes significant milestones of preparation work done ahead of the launch of 988.

  • October 2019: NSPL Capacity Building Grant – Added infrastructure, enhanced routing plan
  • February 2021: 988 Planning Grant – Partnered with the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations (TAMHO) for implementation.  Created a statewide 988 Planning Coalition in the development TN’s 988 Implementation Plan.  Used a data-driven approach for Mental Health Block Grant Crisis set aside to inform future planning needs.
  • August 2021: NSPL 988 Infrastructure Enhancement Pilot – Created infrastructure model and enhanced routing plan based on current capacities. Utilized funding to right size current infrastructure to current NSPL call volume and identify downstream impact of these calls.  Implemented data collection process to allow for analysis improvements
  • April 2022: Tennessee 988 Expansion Project – Increased Tennessee’s Crisis Call Center capacity in preparation for go-live July 2022.  Enhanced Crisis Chat/Text Center infrastructure.  Collected contact metrics and disposition data to inform capacity needs

Media Coverage of 988 in Tennessee