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Calls to 988 crisis hotline in Connecticut have surged 50% since July

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State officials in Connecticut say that calls to the new 988 national suicide prevention hotline have surged since the number went live in July.

“Calls to our state crisis contact team have been up 50%,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday in observance of National Suicide Prevention Month. “So you see that there is a need for help.”

Connecticut and all other states rolled out 988 as a resource that anyone can call, text or chat for mental health support. JoShonda Guerrier with the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) said her agency is expanding the prevention outreach to young people.

“The suicide hotline number will now be printed on high school and college IDs,” Guerrier said. “We recognize that the children sitting in today's classrooms have endured a global pandemic, economic unrest and the loss of normal childhood activities, in addition to enduring many other family and community stressors.”

Nancy Navaretta, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, pointed out that the agency was “making access easier through a centralized call center shared with our partners at the Department of Children and Families and operated by the United Way of Connecticut.” She said the call centers in Connecticut have an answer rate of 98%.

September can be a stressful time of year with back-to-school schedules and activities, and shorter days and colder months ahead, Navaretta said. “So we are here today to remind the public that Connecticut's contact center for the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline is successfully responding to people in crisis and is available to help,” she said.

Officials said that calls to the previous lifeline number 1-800-273-8255 will still be answered. The new 988 helpline builds on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, an existing network of over 200 crisis centers nationwide that are staffed by counselors.

“We can all benefit from honest conversations about mental health,” Bysiewicz said.

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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