As of July 16, 2022, Colorado and the rest of the United States are using the 988 dialing code, a new, easy-to-remember three-digit number for call (multiple languages), text, or chat (English only) that connects people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline), where compassionate, accessible care and support is available for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress. The chat feature will be available through the Lifeline’s website.

The Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) is supporting the logistics and implementation of 988 services in Colorado, including the administration of the Colorado 988 Enterprise Board. The 988 Enterprise Board was created last year with the passage of new legislation to impose a 988 surcharge on telephone service users to help fund the Lifeline call center.

“Shortening the number and opening the caller population to people who are experiencing any type of crisis, not limited to suicidal ideation, is groundbreaking. There is no crisis too small to connect with 988,” said BHA Commissioner Dr. Morgan Medlock.

988 calls are routed to Lifeline call centers across the country based on a person’s area code from the phone they are calling from. Colorado is actively engaged with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Federal Communication Commission, and partners across the country to determine the appropriate solutions for call routing. This situation is not unique to Colorado.

While 988 is an innovative service that should positively impact caller experiences across the country, the full vision of a transformed crisis care system with 988 will not be built overnight. Transformation of this scale will take time.

We recognize that many people in Colorado do not have a phone number with a Colorado area code. We want to ensure a safe, immediate connection to local resources and support. While Colorado works to address geolocation concerns, we also continue to promote our statewide crisis line at 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255.

“Although less than two percent of calls to the existing statewide crisis line result in deploying in-person care, like mobile crisis teams, ensuring all callers have access to local care is crucial,” said Kelly Bowman, 988 Enterprise & Crisis Line Program Manager.

Colorado will not publicly market 988 until the summer of 2023. In the short term, Colorado is looking to strengthen and expand the current Lifeline crisis center infrastructure and capacity to ensure trained crisis counselors are available to quickly respond to 988 via call, text, or chat. Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners (RMCP) is Colorado’s local Lifeline call center. RMCP is currently hiring remote and in-person call center specialist positions for Lifeline.

In the longer term, our vision is to build a robust crisis care response system across the state that links callers to community-based providers who can deliver a full range of crisis care services, including in-person care, if needed.

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About the Behavioral Health Administration:

The Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) is a new cabinet member-led agency within the State of Colorado, housed within the Department of Human Services and is designed to be the single entity responsible for driving coordination and collaboration across state agencies to address behavioral health needs. Find us online at https://bha.colorado.gov/ or follow us on social media at @BHAConnect.

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