988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is coming to Alaska

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July 11, 2022

Dear Community Partners,

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is coming to Alaska! On behalf of Alaska’s 988 Coalition, the Alaska Department of Health plans to send out a press release just prior to the July 16 nationwide launch to announce 988 to the public. We're calling it our "soft launch" while we plan for a larger media campaign and celebratory event in September during Suicide Prevention Month. Please join us in September to help amplify news about 988. 

The purpose of this email is to share information with you prior to the public announcement, so you can help prepare and educate your communities about 988 in Alaska. We are excited to be at this point – and invite you to join us in sharing this positive news. Please visit 988.alaska.gov for shareable messaging resources to help prepare for the implementation of 988. 

Since the Lifeline began in 2005, it has served as an invaluable resource, helping thousands of people overcome suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress every day.  With the transition to the 988 number, these life-saving services will be even easier to reach.  The need to increase access is clear:

  • In 2020, the U.S. had one death by suicide every 11 minutes.
  • In 2020, the rate of suicide in Alaska was more than double the national rate.
  • Youth and young adults in Alaska have some of the highest rates of suicide in the nation.
  • For people ages 10–34, suicide is a leading cause of death.
  • From April 2020 through April 2021, over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses.

Behind each of these data points, there are people, families and communities who have been impacted. Yet in the face of these urgent realities, there is hope.

On July 16, 2022, the 988-dialing code will become the new three-digit number that connects people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for calls (multiple languages), texting or chats (English only and available through the Lifeline's website.) The Lifeline offers compassionate and accessible services for anyone having thoughts of suicide, experiencing mental health or substance use crises, and mental health–related distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. 

Alaskans who dial 988 from the 907 area code will be connected with the Alaska Careline, a member of the Lifeline and an in-state call center where trained counselors answer calls, chats, and texts.

Before July 16, 2022, please continue to call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-877-266-HELP (4357) to reach the Alaska Careline. Both numbers will still work after July 16 and so will 988! 

In preparation for the transition of the Lifeline to 988, the federal government and partners from the public and private sector have worked together to provide resources for 988 to make our work educating the public about 988 a little easier.

  • 988 Messaging Framework: The framework developed by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention provides strategies related to the timing of messaging before and after the transition to 988 in July, how 988 works locally, and tailoring 988-related messages for specific audiences.
  • 988 Partner Toolkit, at gov/988: The toolkit provides key messages, FAQs, logo and brand guidelines for SAMHSA’s 988 implementation partners—including crisis call centers, state mental health programs, substance use treatment providers, behavioral health systems, and others. SAMHSA will add social media posts, wallet cards, magnets, and other materials about 988 to the toolkit over time.
  • 988 Implementation Guidance Playbooks: SAMHSA has worked with partners to create a holistic view of readiness for the implementation of 988 for states, territories, tribes, crisis contact centers, public safety answering points (PSAPs) and behavioral health providers.

While this is an exciting time to reimagine how we transform crisis services in the U.S., 988 at its core will not be built overnight. Transformation of this scale will take time, and we must all work together to make it happen. It is important to communicate clearly about 988 and how it will work. As SAMHSA continues updating its partner toolkit and providing guidance on 988 implementation, we look forward to working with all of you to bring these critical services to our community.

If you have questions or concerns, you can reach Alaska’s 988 Coalition by emailing Leah Van Kirk, the statewide suicide prevention program coordinator with the Alaska Division of Behavioral Health at leah.vankirk@alaska.gov.

Thank you and best wishes,

Alaska’s 988 Coalition