The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) today announced the launch of 988, the new National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, in Maryland.
Contacting 988 provides a direct connection to support for anyone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, having thoughts of suicide, or being worried about someone who may need crisis support.
“988 is an easy-to-remember number and an incredibly fast way to get anyone who experiences a behavioral health crisis the help they need right away,” said MDH Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “In addition, in Maryland, we are integrating 988 into our existing and expanding crisis system support network.”
Suicide was a leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 years in 2020, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Moreover, from April 2020 to 2021, over 100,000 individuals died from drug overdoses in the U.S.
When someone in Maryland calls 988, the call is routed based on the caller’s area code, not their location. If your cell phone has an out-of-state area code, your call will be routed to the state in which the area code originates. For those calls routed to Maryland, the call is answered by one of eight strategically located call centers across the state. These centers provide phone, text and chat-based support and information regarding local resources free of charge.
The Lifeline provides phone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 150 additional languages for people who call 988. Veterans can access the Veterans Crisis Line by calling 988 and pressing 1.
MDH also launched an awareness campaign to promote the new three digit number. Radio, digital and streaming ads launched this weekend and will run across the state for approximately eight weeks. Billboards are slated to appear on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland in August.
“We must lead the charge in changing the narrative and educating Marylanders to call 88 for behavioral health crises,” said Dr. Lisa Burgess, MDH Acting Deputy Secretary for the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA). “The 988 lifeline is a key component as we continue to expand and improve our crisis system in Maryland.”
BHA is expanding crisis services across the state through the Mobile Response & Stabilization Services, a youth-specific crisis service model. Recently, BHA also developed mental health and crisis resources for coping with violence and resources to support minority mental health.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline replaces the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and Maryland’s helpline (211, press 1). Both numbers will remain operational through the transitional period and beyond to ensure no resident is left without crisis support.
Learn more about 988 in Maryland.