NEW 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Launches in Maryland
If you, a friend or family member are having a mental crisis or just need to talk with someone, the 988 Lifeline is the number to call.
The State of Maryland has activated a new crisis line designated for suicide and substance abuse concerns. The 988 Lifeline number is designated for anyone who is experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, contemplating suicide, or worried about someone who may need crisis support.
Why do citizens need a Suicide and Substance Abuse line?
In many instances of mental health crisis, a trained mental health provider and/or emergency mental health care is required. In the past, the only resource to call was 911. Historically we’ve learned police, fire, or EMS are not necessary in many circumstances of mental health and drug abuse calls. In some circumstances, the arrival of police on the scene can escalate non-violent situations and have created additional problems for those going through trauma and crisis. In some cases, police presence may have caused tragic consequences for individuals in a mental health crisis.
According to the Maryland Department of Health Behavioral Health Administration’s outreach materials, there are several benefits for the new 988 service:
· 988 call specialists located at crisis call centers around Maryland can immediately provide phone-based support and connections to local resources.
· By directing cases to 988 when a behavioral health crisis (mental health and substance use) isn’t life threatening, the response provided by public services, such as law enforcement and EMS, can be reserved for situations in which lives are endangered.
· In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 calling code to be operated through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sees 988 as a first step towards a transformed crisis care system in America.
Maryland has a strategic plan for suicide intervention and post-suicide postvention practices programs and services. Postvention is an attempt to reduce risk and promote community healing after a suicide death. To facilitate this plan, the Governor’s Commission on Suicide Prevention Task Force was established. The vision statement of the State Suicide Prevention Plan Task Force includes:
“Communities and Systems across Maryland are committed to reducing and preventing suicides and suicidal behaviors, and to have comprehensive, multifaceted, coordinated and well-funded programs and services that meet the needs and enhance the wellness of all residents.”
This data-driven, evidenced-based program encompasses behavioral health experts, Latinos, veterans, surviving families of suicide, at-risk communities and historically marginalized communities. It aligns with other state and local jurisdictional behavioral health plans and provides a framework for identifying and implementing Maryland’s suicide prevention priorities.
When someone calls or texts 988, the call will be routed to one of the State’s eight call centers. The trained crisis manager will listen to the caller, understand how their problem is affecting them, and provide support. The call center can provide local resources for mental health and substance abuse. Anyone can call the 988 number 24/7/365 and be referred to mental health services.
The call center can accommodate translation services for over 150 languages with Language Line Solutions. However, only English and Spanish are available by text and chat services at this time.
NOTE: The former suicide prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK and 211 emergency lines will continue to be active as citizens transition to the 988 system.