HARRISBURG, PA — Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller recently announced that Pennsylvania was awarded $340,000 for strategic planning and infrastructure development in preparation for the launch of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 988 in July 2022. The 988 call number will eventually replace 1-800-273-TALK (8255) as the direct line for the Lifeline, easing access to life-saving crisis intervention services for people experiencing thoughts of suicide, their loved ones, and anyone helping someone in crisis.
“When a person is experiencing a crisis or suicidal ideation, quick response is critical to providing support. Transitioning the Lifeline to 988 will ease access for people in crisis and anyone looking to help and will save valuable time and lives,” said Secretary Miller. “This funding enables DHS and our partners to prepare for implementation and build capacity to support this eased access and bring together suicide prevention and crisis support networks so callers know that no matter what they are going through, they do not have to experience and overcome it alone.”
Funding will be used by DHS’ Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in partnership with Thomas Jefferson University to support 13 crisis call centers in preparation for 988 implementation. This will include building capacity to support increased call volume, coordinating local behavioral health, suicide prevention, and crisis support infrastructure, and building awareness of the launch of 988 as the new way to reach the Lifeline. Call centers receiving funding through this effort include:
- Center for Community Resources, Butler, PA;
- Keystone Health Crisis Intervention Program, Chambersburg, PA;
- Safe Harbor Behavioral Health, Erie, PA;
- Valley Creek Crisis Center, Exton, PA;
- TrueNorth Wellness Services, Hanover, PA;
- Lancaster County Crisis Intervention, Lancaster, PA;
- Family Service Association of Bucks County, Langhorne, PA;
- Montgomery County Emergency Service, Inc., Norristown, PA;
- The City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA;
- Resolve Crisis Services, Pittsburgh, PA;
- Centre Helps, State College, PA;
- Resources for Human Development, New Perspectives Crisis Services, Stroudsburg, PA; and,
- Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services, Uniontown, PA.
The grant was awarded through Vibrant Emotional Health, a non-profit organization that helps individuals and families achieve emotional wellbeing. Vibrant, the administrators of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, supports the Lifeline and other crisis resources through telephone, text, and web-based platforms.Vibrant is supporting states preparing for the 988 transition so the Lifeline can continue to be America’s mental health safety net by providing emotional support for people in distress, reducing suicides and mental health crises, and providing a pathway to well-being for all.
“Access to mental health and crisis support has never been more critical for Americans,” said Kimberly Williams, President and CEO of Vibrant Emotional Health. “Vibrant is committed to providing the states and territories with some of the resources they’ll need to plan for the implementation of 988 and to support their local crisis centers. By working together, we will increase access to care, reduce the stigma around mental health and, ultimately, save lives.”
In 2019, the Wolf Administration announced a first-of-its-kind, statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force to develop Pennsylvania’s statewide suicide prevention plan, a four-year strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania and fight the stigma associated with suicide, suicide attempts, and mental health issues so that Pennsylvanians in crisis know their lives are valuable and help is available. The Suicide Prevention Task Force is made up of several state agencies, members of the General Assembly, and Prevent Suicide PA who will engage members of the public, stakeholders, county task forces, individuals, and families who are impacted by suicide every year.
“988 can save lives, particularly when used in conjunction with a variety of other measures that the state is working on,” said Representative Mike Schlossberg, co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Task Force. “Democrats and Republicans are dedicated to reducing suicide in Pennsylvania, and we’re looking forward to working together to implement the recommendations of the Suicide Prevention Task Force.”
The task force released Pennsylvania’s Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan in September 2020. The plan is a four-year strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania by fighting stigma, increasing training and education on suicide and mental health, improving data collection for suicide, and supporting clinical practices and treatment to prevent suicide and help those who are struggling or in crisis know that things can and will get better. The task force will prioritize cross-industry partnerships to fully implement the Lifeline’s new 988 number over the coming year and a half.
“Thomas Jefferson University is pleased to continue its partnership with DHS to help Pennsylvania advance responsiveness to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” said Dr. Matt Wintersteen, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. “This new planning grant affords state leadership and community stakeholders an opportunity to further advance crisis management ahead of the transition to 988.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal ideation or have in past, know that help is always available:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- The Spanish-language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-888-628-9454
- For the Mental Health Crisis Text Line: Text PA to 74174
- Persevere PA Support and Referral Helpline: 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.
- TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ individuals: 866-488-7386
- Trans Helpline: 877-565-8860
DHS states that these free resources are available 24/7. If you are concerned about someone else’s well-being, these resources can help you be a life-saving assistance. No matter what you are going through, help is available.
For more information on Vibrant Emotional Health, visit www.vibrant.org.
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