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Kansas’ 9-8-8 crisis hotline saw 27% increase in call volume

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly today announced that since its launch in July 2022, the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has handled a nearly 27% increase in call volume compared to the six months before its launch. Based on national projections, Kansas is estimated to reach 120,000 Kansans in the hotline’s first full year of operation.

In June 2022, Governor Kelly signed Senate Bill 19, bipartisan legislation that created the state’s three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). The hotline is backed by federal funding, with the idea that – like 9-1-1 – 9-8-8 is easier to remember in a crisis.

“The successes we are seeing with the implementation of 9-8-8 are a reflection that when Kansas leaders come together to invest in mental health, more Kansans can access essential care,” Governor Laura Kelly said.

Now, calls, texts, or chats to 9-8-8 involving thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crises, or other kinds of emotional distress are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can also receive the immediate support of mobile crisis teams in cases of extreme risk, referral to local mental health services, and resources for follow-up care.

According to data from Vibrant, the current administrator of the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, 9-8-8 centers in Kansas have maintained an in-state call-answer rate of 85% to 91% month-over-month amid increased call volume. Other states have struggled with call volume, causing higher rates of sending calls to an out-of-state center. Just a few years ago, Kansas answered about 60% of NSPL calls in-state, with many calls rolling over to national backup centers.

Kansas has also fared better than its regional peers on its “abandon” rate, or the number of received calls that disconnect before engagement with an in-state counselor. That rate has consistently remained below 10%.

In Kansas, 9-8-8 contact centers are independently operated. They receive additional state funding and oversight from KDADS and the 9-8-8 Coordinating Council appointed last fall by Governor Kelly.

Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ (KSPHQ) reports that 9-8-8 funding has allowed them to hire positions for both chat/text and calls, increasing the capacity to receive calls from Kansans and plan for expanded chat access.

“Overall, we’ve been able to hire more support in the call center to help take calls, manage resources and work on mobile response across the state,” Sarah Robertson, Communications and Development at KSPHQ, said.

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