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After 988 crisis line is launched, calls have spiked. CT is expanding its call center capability

United Way of Connecticut President Lisa Bates discussing the 988 Call center.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
United Way of Connecticut President Lisa Bates says she has seen a 125% increase in calls to Connecticut's 988 call center.

A year after the national 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline was launched, calls have surged in Connecticut and across the country.

“We’ve actually seen a 125% increase in calls” in Connecticut over the past year, said Lisa Tepper Bates, president and CEO of the United Way of Connecticut, which responds to the 988 calls coming in through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Previously, the center responded to the harder-to-remember 1-800 number, which is still operational.

Meanwhile, United Way is working to expand its call center capacity in Connecticut.

Currently, callers access a chat and text capability for 988 nationally. An effort is underway to have Connecticut call-takers assist with locally-based chats and texts.

“We're building out [our] local response capacity starting this year to respond to chat and text with Connecticut level specialists,” Tepper Bates said. “Having that local response, we believe, will be a superior way to provide connection to the local resources.”

Officials say that 4% of the calls – or nearly 6,800 calls – were from people who were planning to die by suicide. Tepper Bates said the rest were from those with substance use disorder and mental illness, including anxiety and panic attack. They needed someone to talk to, she said, and to connect with resources.

According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, between October 2022 and March 2023, Connecticut ranked within the top six states nationally in terms of call response rates. Several of the higher-ranking states, like Rhode Island, had lower call volumes.

A note to readers: If you're in crisis, you can call 988. Learn more here.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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