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The 988 Wisconsin Lifeline is celebrating the accomplishment of successfully extending support to Wisconsinites in the form of mental health and substance use support via phone and online resources.

From July 2022 through June 2023, the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline received 91,834 contacts to the service

This came following the July 16 transition made last year when the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline switched to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

After a year of servicing, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recognizes the positive impact the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline service has on the state through its ability to take in calls, texts and online chats.

The 988 Wisconsin Lifeline is funded through a combination of federal grants managed by DHS.

“The 988 Wisconsin Lifeline is a critically important resource for Wisconsinites to be able to talk to someone when they need to,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “We are proud of the work the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline team has done over the last year to provide hope, help, and support for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites experiencing mental and behavioral health challenges.”

About the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline

Wisconsin’s 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline support center, also known as the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline, covers the entire state and is managed by Family Services of Northwest Wisconsin.

Staff are trained to equip people with emotional support, reduce stress, and connect people with local resources that they may benefit from.

All contacts are kept confidential between the person and counselor unless there is an imminent danger for the person or others.

Wisconsin’s data

This year, DHS reports that most contacts came from Wisconsin-based phone numbers and locations were handled in the state.

Wisconsinites made a total of 72,487 calls in the first year for an average of 5,900 calls per month.

The remainder of the 91,834 contacts (19,347) were texts sent to 988 and online chats through their website, 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

Out of all of the calls, over 98% of the contacts were resolved through conversation through the resource which helped to reduce pressure on the state’s system of emergency services for mental health and substance use concerns.

If the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline cannot take the call, text or chat, the contact is automatically routed to a backup support center, which may be located outside of Wisconsin.

“The 988 Wisconsin Lifeline staff work all hours to assure no one in Wisconsin has to carry their worries alone,” said Kirsten Johnson, DHS secretary-designee.” We are grateful for their dedicated service and look forward to continuing to partner with them to strengthen this life-saving service, making mental health and substance use care more accessible to all state residents.”

Moving forward

Currently, the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline is hiring more staff to increase the number of contacts handled within the state to be available for more residents.

In an effort to support mental health better throughout the state, Gov. Evers declared 2023 the Year of Mental Health, and in recognition of the need for a sustainable funding source for this service, he included more than $3 million for the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline in his 2023-2025 state budget proposal.

According to the release, the Republican-led Joint Committee on Finance cut this funding from the plan submitted to and passed by the legislature.

In addition, the 2023-2025 state budget signed by Gov. Evers earlier this month supports ongoing efforts to transform Wisconsin’s system for mental health and substance use emergencies into a network of services focused on ensuring the right care is available at the right time, and in the right place.

A total of $10 million has been set aside to establish up to two crisis urgent care and observation centers in Wisconsin. These centers would act like emergency departments for behavioral health needs.

Support services: Peer-run warmline

DHS has also invested in other new services to ensure there is someone to talk to, someone to respond to, and a safe place to go in the form of a peer-run warmline.

This phone service will offer support to people who have experienced mental health and substance use emergencies. It is expected to be available this summer.

Per DHS, mobile crisis response teams provide care when and where a person needs it in their community, whether at home, work, school or another location.

Additionally, regional crisis stabilization facilities are beginning to open to offer an alternative to hospitalization for adults who need the safety and security of facility-based care, but not intensive inpatient services.

There are three facilities open around the state that provide similar services to youth, with a fourth one expected to open later this year.

The DHS website features more information about these investments in crisis services and the 988 Wisconsin Lifeline, including materials people and organizations can use to raise awareness of the service.

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