Governor Greg Gianforte, when he was in Congress, helped to sponsor the ‘988’ Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

KGVO News learned from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services that the Montana 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline will ‘go live’ on Saturday across the U.S.

John Tabb, Suicide Prevention Program Manager for Montana DPHHS has details.

“It's going to be the official launch of 988 as the nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis lifeline,” said Tabb. “It’s replacing the old 10-digit number which was very difficult for folks to remember, with a much more easily remembered number that is similar enough to 911 to remind people that it's a crisis line. It's something that they can reach out to when they have no other help or when they're in deep crisis. So while 911 is for law enforcement and medical crises 988 will be for mental health crises.”

The 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline is particularly poignant for Montana since the state usually leads the nation in suicides per capita.

“Montana typically leads the nation or is within the top five of states for suicide rates nationwide, and there are many reasons for that,” he said. “A big part of that is because we have limited resources. We're spread across large rural areas, and so having access to mental health treatment quickly, is often the key to keeping people safe from suicide risk.”

Tabb described how the hotline is being funded.

“We have received significant grant money for 988 over the last year and a half for planning initially through Vibrant Emotional Health and then most recently from SAMSA, (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services) providing almost $400,000 for capacity building for 988 Call centers,” he said. “This will help them maintain staffing levels and maintain their performance which right now is second in the nation.”

Tabb said many Montanans need an outlet like the 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“I would just like people to know that the real power of 988 is that it allows communities, especially those that are away from urban centers where their hospitals and other resources in that it gives them the power to take care of their own through a service that gives them 24/7 access to highly effective counselors who are trained and capable of stabilizing someone in a mental health crisis.”

Tabb said veterans who call 988 can then press ‘1’ to be directed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention line.

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