The Lead

Wolf admin. celebrates launch of 988 helpline, says there’s more work to be done

By: - July 20, 2022 3:42 pm

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

State officials and lawmakers gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to celebrate the launch of 988, a national suicide and crisis helpline that went live on Saturday, July 16. 

“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,” acting Department of Human Services Secretary Meg Snead said. “988 can be used by anyone, any time, at no cost, no matter what you are experiencing.”

While 988 was intended as a rebrand for the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Snead noted that the existing Lifeline number — 1-800-273-8255 — will remain available indefinitely.

In Pennsylvania, 988 will connect callers and texters to one of the commonwealth’s 13 crisis call centers for support. In communities where mobile crisis mental health teams are available, the call centers can dispatch those teams to “provide on-site support and interventions,” according to DHS. 

988 counselors can also call out to police and emergency services “if there is an immediate risk to life or safety,” the department said.

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, who joined state officials on Wednesday, said that 988 “can help drive down stigma and self-stigma.”

“I want everyone listening to this right now to think about the destigmatizing effects that this project is going to have,” Schlossberg said. “By creating a 9-8-8 hotline, we’re saying to individuals that your problems are not only real but that we believe you are worth treatment and recovering, and living a good life.”

While the launch of 988 is a sign of progress in addressing the mental health needs of Pennsylvanians, Schlossberg emphasized that there is more work to be done to adequately address those needs. 

“This is a celebration. It’s a good day. But I don’t want anybody to think that our work is done,” Schlossberg said. “Far from it.”

The helpline is available 24/7 and can connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line and assistance in Spanish. 

“Please share this resource and if you’re worried about someone you know, don’t be afraid to call or text 988 yourself,” Snead said.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.