TN Dept. of Mental Health and Drug Abuse Services celebrates successful launch of 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is releasing new data showing the response to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in the state.

The three-digit number for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline launched in mid-July 2022 after two years of planning, preparing and expanding. In Tennessee, that included distributing about $2.8 million in federal funding to community crisis call centers to hire dozens of new employees.

The preparation paid off with about 21,000 Tennessee calls to 988 in the last six months of 2022. That’s an increase of about 500 calls per month from the previous 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. Tennesseans also benefit from 988’s ability to text or chat. In the last half of 2022, there were nearly 10,000 texts to 988 and chats to from people in Tennessee.

“Thanks to 988, connecting to mental health services in a crisis has never been easier. Our state has a great network of crisis services and community mental health providers, and 988 opens the door to the mental health services that so many people need right now,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams. “We are grateful to our community partners who have expanded to meet demand and continue to respond to needs in a caring and compassionate manner.”

Even with the increased demand for assistance, Tennessee’s crisis call centers meet or exceed national benchmarks for in-state response rate and response time. The federal agency funding the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline sets targets at 90% in the state and 30 seconds. Any call not immediately answered in the state is routed to a national back-up call center, so no call goes unanswered.

“The power of 988 and Tennessee’s crisis services continuum means you’re not just talking to someone in Tennessee, but the call taker is likely to be in your area and knows the resources and likely has personal contacts who can help you,” said TDMHSAS Director of Crisis Services and Suicide Prevention Jennifer Armstrong.

Following the strong start in 2022, TDMHSAS is adding additional capacity in Nashville, Knoxville and West Tennessee using $1 million in additional funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and existing Mental Health Block Grant Funding. Previously, the department expanded chat and SMS capabilities in September 2022 to meet demand during peak times.

“We said for a long time that we would follow the data in our approach to 988, and we have. We’re constantly learning more about how Tennesseans want to access help with a mental health crisis, and increasingly that means not having to talk to someone on the phone. “We are grateful for the flexibility of our crisis call centers and their amazing staff as we work together to meet the need and connect people with care.”

TN Dept. of Mental Health and Drug Abuse Services celebrates successful launch of 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

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