New 988 Behavioral Health Crisis line
The new 988 behavioral health crisis line started on July 16. The three-digit phone number will replace the old Suicide Prevention Hotline and will respond to a broader range of behavioral health issues. Reasons for calling 988 could be suicidal thoughts, other mental health or substance use crises, or any kind of emotional distress. The intent is to divert behavioral health crises from a law enforcement response to help from behavioral health professionals and to move from crisis as a disruption of care to crisis as an opportunity for coordination of care.
Most calls to 988 will be answered by the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line (NMCAL) right here in New Mexico. When necessary, calls will be routed to other locations to make sure that all calls are answered. NMCAL responds to calls in both English and Spanish. Language Line Services provide interpretation when other languages are needed.
You can contact 988 through chat or text as well as through phone calls. Texts and chat will be responded to by Lifeline crisis centers; the capacity to have those handled locally within New Mexico will be expanded in coming years. Chat and text are currently available only in English.
People with hearing impairments can use the NMCAL TTY line at 1-855-227-5485.
Trained crisis counselors will answer calls to 988, provide support to the caller, and connect them to additional resources when they’re needed. When an immediate response is necessary, mobile crisis teams rather than police will be sent. These teams are staffed by behavioral health professionals and provide crisis intervention, screening, assessment, referrals to appropriate resources and time-limited follow-up services for the individual.
When the person needs a safe place to go right away, crisis triage centers (CTCs) are available in some New Mexico communities. They provide crisis stabilization in a safe and non-judgmental environment. All services in CTCs are voluntary.
In rural and frontier areas where a CTC is not available, crisis services can be provided through partnerships between hospitals and local behavioral health providers or an on-call receiving model in which behavioral health clinicians and certified peer supports respond as needed. The goal is eventually to have crisis receiving services within 90 minutes of every person in New Mexico.
988 is expected to expand and improve services over the old Suicide Prevention Hotline, better serving people experiencing mental health or substance use crises. It will improve safety by moving away from a law enforcement response to having trained behavioral health professionals handle behavioral health situations. And it’s expected to save money by diverting people in crisis from jail and psychiatric hospitals, addressing their needs in the community instead.
988 is an easy number to remember – and it’s the one to use in a behavioral health crisis.