BATON ROUGE, La (press release) – The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has launched the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline — the new 3-digit number that replaces the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to make it easier for people to receive assistance during a mental health crisis.
The previous 10-digit number has answered tens of millions of calls and saved countless lives. Now 988 will be the same trusted resource for those who are dealing with suicidal thoughts, substance abuse or other mental health challenges. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need immediate crisis support.
When you call, text or chat 988, you will be connected to trained compassionate crisis counselors who will listen to your concerns, provide support and connect you with local resources. The chat feature will also be available through the Lifeline’s website. All calls are confidential. The service is being provided 24/7, free of charge.
“It is so important that we have resources in place to help people when they need it most and having a lifeline like this one is vital,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Tragically, Louisiana experienced more than 600 suicides in 2020 and nationally there is a death by suicide every 11 minutes. This is a serious problem and being able to text or chat with a trained and compassionate crisis counselor who can listen, provide support and connect people with local resources is going to make it easier for anyone to receive assistance during a mental health crisis. There is never any shame in reaching out for help and everyone needs help at some point in their lives. This is a very safe place to get that support.”
“One in five people above the age of 12 has a mental health condition in the U.S.,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney N. Phillips. “If you need help, know that you are not alone. It’s OK to not be OK. Mental health impacts everyone and we need to make sure those who need help have access to it. This important initiative will make it easier for more residents to access critical mental health services when they need it most. A year in the making, Louisiana stands ready to join the nation for this launch.”
According to the CDC, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, and the 3rd leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24 in the same year.
LDH’s Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) has contracted with two certified call centers to answer 988 calls in the state. The Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling, located in Bossier City, will field calls in area codes 318 and 337 covering north, central and southwest Louisiana. VIA LINK, located in New Orleans, will answer calls for southeast Louisiana, covering area codes 504, 225 and 985.
Approximately $2.5 million has been allocated to fund the program including existing state and federal grant dollars.