Positive Approaches Journal | 6-8

Positive Approaches Journal - Volume 2 Title

Volume 11 ► Issue 2 ► August 2022

A Better Understanding of Mental Health to Improve Systems and Supports


This issue seeks to shed light on and provide context to better understand the needs, experiences, and emerging treatment and support of people with mental health challenges including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We would like to specifically highlight the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to be operated through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This option is the first step towards a transformed crisis care system in America. Pennsylvania’s 988 is live as of July 16, 2022, and should be considered a source of support for people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.

Wolf Administration Marks National Launch of 988

New, shortened number serves as a direct link for suicide prevention and crisis support.

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead, Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. Denise Johnson, and Representative Mike Schlossberg joined together today to highlight the national launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that officially went live on July 16.

People who call, text, or chat with 988 are now directly connected to the same trained, compassionate crisis response counselors that were accessible through the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, now rebranded as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

“Pennsylvanians now have a new, easier way to connect to behavioral or mental health crisis services – a historic step to increase access to life-saving support when people need it most,” said DHS Acting Secretary Snead. “988 can be used by anyone, any time, at no cost, no matter what you are experiencing. Your life matters, so please know that this service is always here to help provide the support that you or your loved ones deserve.”

“As an OB-GYN physician, I’ve spent my career caring for people, especially during vulnerable times of their lives like the pregnancy and post-partum periods. Providing mental and emotional health assistance is just as important as taking care of a person’s physical health. I have seen firsthand how individuals and families can benefit when they receive help to address their mental and behavioral health needs. The new 988 number will help make that much easier to reach for any Pennsylvanian who is in crisis or who needs help for a loved one,” said DOH Acting Secretary Johnson.

In 2020, the United States Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to connected callers and texters to Lifeline call centers. Pennsylvania has 13 crisis call centers that collectively serve the entire state. With the national launch of 988, these call centers will continue to provide support for individuals considering suicide, self-harm, or any behavioral or mental health need crisis. While the majority of calls are triaged and de-escalated without deploying in-person services, in communities where mobile crisis mental health teams are available, the 988 counselor can dispatch the team to provide on-site support and interventions. They are also able to call out police or other emergency services if there is an immediate risk to life or safety. Callers to 988 can also connect with the Veterans Crisis Line or assistance in Spanish.

Lifeline services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no cost to the caller. To chat, go to https://988lifeline.org/chat/. While the intent of 988 is to ease access to and knowledge of life-saving mental health crisis resources, the existing Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available, as well as 911 in the event the individual is experiencing a life-threatening emergency.

To learn more visit, www.dhs.pa.gov.988

Stacy L. Nonnemacher, Ph.D. Editor-in-Chief
Clinical Director
Office of Developmental Programs