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Montana’s crisis call centers prepare for the launch of the new 988 suicide prevention lifeline

 The new three-digit suicide prevention lifeline number launches this weekend.
Nadya Faulx
Yellowstone Public Radio
The new three-digit suicide prevention lifeline number launches this weekend.

Montana is preparing for the launch of the new three-digit national suicide prevention lifeline number this weekend.

The state's three crisis call centers – in Bozeman, Great Falls and Missoula – answer more than 10,000 calls to the lifeline a year. And with the new 9-8-8 lifeline starting this weekend, the centers are anticipating as much as a 30% increase in call traffic.

To handle the increase, the state health department is using a Mental Health Block Grant and federal COVID-19 relief funding to maintain call center staffing and work to keep at least 90% of Montana’s 988 calls answered in the state.

Matt Kuntz with the Montana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says it’s important Montanans are able to speak with someone locally.

“They know our challenges and our resources," Kuntz said at news conference Wednesday. "They know resources pop up and resources go down and family members and loved one need need that information quickly to be able to save lives."

In the same way people know to call 911 for physical health and safety emergencies, officials hope to see 988 become as ubiquitous for mental health emergency use.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, you can call 800-273-TALK (8255) or 988 starting Saturday.

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Ellis Juhlin