Many Alaskans will now have an easier time accessing the state suicide and crisis lifeline after more than a year of work on the project, according to a release from the state Department of Health.
Starting on Saturday, Alaskans with 907 area codes can dial 988 and get connected with a trained crisis counselor through Careline Alaska. Support is available 24 hours per day and seven days per week, according to the release, which includes services to non-English speakers and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“There is no wrong door to seek help,” DOH Commissioner Adam Crum said in the release. “The Alaska Careline is a member of the Lifeline and will continue to serve as both a crisis line and the ‘someone to talk to’ line for Alaskans.”
The new line is part of a national initiative to connect people to crisis centers throughout the country. People with out-of-state area codes will be routed to a call center in that state.
Data indicates the suicide rate in Alaska is higher than the national average. According to the release, Alaska still has the highest per capita suicide rates in the nation. The suicide rate has risen close to 30% since 1999.
Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in the release that the advantage of the 988 code is its simplicity.
“Alaska is joining states and territories across the nation in transition to the easy-to-remember, three-digit number for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline,” she said. “This is a top priority for me and our entire leadership here at the department.”
The 988 operators will be able to answer calls and texts from those seeking out help, and officials will still operate the Alaska Careline and the Lifeline. For more information about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, visit 988.alaska.gov.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, experiencing a mental health crisis or struggling from substance use, the Alaska Careline can be reached at 877-266-4357 and the Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. Starting Saturday, you can also dial 988.
Reach reporter Camille Botello at firstname.lastname@example.org.