The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced a $282 million investment to help transition the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from its current 10-digit number to a three-digit dialing code – 988.
Once implemented, the 988 code is intended to be a first step toward transforming crisis care in the United States by creating a universal entry point to needed crisis services in line with access to other emergency medical services.
With funds from the Biden-Harris Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget and additional funds from the American Rescue Plan, SAMHSA’s $282 million investment will support 988 efforts across the country to shore up, scale up and staff up, including:
- $177 million to strengthen and expand the existing Lifeline network operations and telephone infrastructure, including centralized chat/text response, backup center capacity, and special services (e.g., a sub-network for Spanish language-speakers).
- $105 million to build up staffing across states’ local crisis call centers.
Click here to read more about this funding announcement.
The team at iCarol is excited to see the commitment and investment on behalf of the US government towards the 988 initiative. We believe that 988 will improve accessibility and equity for Americans seeking emotional support and assistance. By designating a three-digit number for suicide prevention and mental health crises, our leaders send a clear message that these concerns deserve the same immediate attention and access to assistance as a physical health emergency, while also reducing harmful stigmas that create barriers to treatment. As the leading software provider among the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of centers, we stand ready to support our customers making the transition to answering 988, and welcome new centers coming on board for the 988 initiative.
On Wednesday, June 16, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that Vibrant Emotional Health will be the administrators of the new 988 dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States. Vibrant, in partnership with SAMHSA, has administered the Lifeline since its creation in 2005. Click here to read SAMHSA’s full statement.
The process of creating the three-digit national number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been ongoing for several years. Click here For more information on 988.
The team at iCarol extends our congratulations to Vibrant Emotional Health for being designated as administrators of the 988 dialing code. Through our years working with Vibrant Emotional Health and the many Lifeline Network Centers answering calls to 1-800-273-TALK, we have seen firsthand the passion and professionalism these teams bring to their work addressing the critical public health issues of suicide and mental health. We believe that 988 will improve accessibility and equity for Americans seeking emotional support and assistance. By designating a three-digit number for suicide prevention and mental health crises, our leaders send a clear message that these concerns deserve the same immediate attention and access to assistance as a physical health emergency, while also reducing harmful stigmas that create barriers to treatment. As the leading software provider among the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network of centers, we stand ready to support our customers making the transition to answering 988, and welcome new centers coming on board for the 988 initiative.
This Wednesday through Friday, members of our team will attend sessions at the American Association of Suicidology Conference, and we will also host a booth in the virtual exhibit hall.
The conference is a convergence of professionals working across the spectrum of the suicide prevention industry, from those operating crisis centers and other direct care services, to professionals working in academic settings conducting suicide prevention research, and advocates focused on prevention, education and awareness.
So we can continue to stay ahead of the topics that most impact iCarol’s customers, on Wednesday Dana will attend the Crisis Continuum pre-conference program, which concludes with a session on network updates and future directions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network.
Having supported crisis centers since the earliest days of the Lifeline network, and serving a large portion of the network that are iCarol customers, we have witnessed the Lifeline’s growth year after year, both in the number of participating centers and the volume of contacts the Lifeline receives through calls, chats, and other forms of communication. At this year’s update we’re anticipating the latest news from the 988 transition plan and how that will affect members of the Lifeline network. We’re also closely following the continuing conversations on how communities are changing their practices around responding to mental health emergencies and similar crises, with a shift towards crisis intervention teams and other professionals leading the response as opposed to law enforcement.
These discussions directly inform iCarol’s strategy and product development in the coming months and years, which ensures we will continue to meet the needs of suicide prevention and crisis centers everywhere, providing the tools they need to do their life-saving work.
If you plan to be at the AAS Conference, please stop by our virtual booth to download our new guides and materials, including a brand new ebook on choosing software for crisis intervention and suicide prevention services. We’ll also be available for virtual meetings at your convenience to answer your questions, or have conversations about your challenges or projects and explore how iCarol can be of assistance.
President Donald Trump recently signed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act into law in the United States, a move celebrated by mental health and suicide prevention advocates. The act assigns 9-8-8 as a national, three-digit number dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health crisis response. The number will become active and available in 2022.
This law signals a recognition that mental health crises are just as important and deserve the same emergency response as the medical emergencies which are reported to their own national three-digit number, 9-1-1.
The law does not create a new service, as the US already has a national number for suicide prevention. Instead, this new law creates a the pathway for a new, easier way for people to reach existing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services available through the existing Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a service provided by a network of about 170 local crisis centers around the country.
Once three-digit dialing is activated in 2022, experts anticipate that call volume to the crisis centers will increase. The new law creates funding and resources for local crisis centers that will enable them to meet this demand. And, similar to nominal fees charged that support 9-1-1 services, the law will give states the authority to levy fees on wireless bills to support the 9-8-8 service.
The iCarol team applauds Congress and the President of the United States for making three-digit dialing for suicide prevention a reality after years of advocacy by mental health and suicide prevention experts. We have no doubt that the establishment of 9-8-8 will make it easier for people in crisis to reach assistance and receive help. As the software provider for many of the Lifeline crisis centers, iCarol pledges to monitor the progress of 9-8-8 activation, and provide assistance and support to our customers throughout this process.
As another year closes and a new one begins, we naturally reflect on the accomplishments, celebrations, and important moments of 2019 while anticipating all that lies ahead. Personally, I consider the past year to be one full of progress, both in the industries we serve and here at iCarol.
All year we engage with our customers at industry conferences, forums, and in other capacities so we can be intimately aware of the topics currently affecting them and others on the horizon. This helps us to respond in kind to meet these needs with new, innovative solutions from iCarol. This year was no exception – we have seen movement across all of the industries we serve that open opportunities for our customers that we are actively exploring ways to support using iCarol software.
In the world of Information and Referral, the topics of Social Determinants of Health, Closed-loop referral, and further encouragement to engage in partnerships and collaboration all show promise for many exciting opportunities for our customers. Those working to address sexual and intimate partner violence continue to advocate for education, awareness, prevention, improved response, and justice for all those who experienced a crime. We’re excited to see their advocacy result in new legislation across several states that extend statutes of limitations for crimes, signaling better recognition of the complexities and time involved for survivors to report, and improved allocation of resources towards testing material from forensic exams, improving the chances that survivors will receive justice. In December, the United States Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to establish a three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the next 18 months. This is long sought after acknowledgement that mental health emergencies deserve the same attention and response as the types of emergencies reported to 9-1-1, something suicide prevention advocates have long been pressing for as a way to prevent suicide. Finally, concerns about consent for contact and data privacy continue to loom large across the world. Previous years have given us CASL in Canada and GDPR in the EU, both sweeping and comprehensive sets of regulations. Now we are beginning to see individual states and provinces taking on the task of writing their own legislation to protect consumers from having their data harvested and sold without their knowledge and consent, most notably in California’s Consumer Protection Act. We are doing all we can, and relying on our resources available through Harris Computer, to make sure that we are in full compliance with such laws, and that our customers are aware of how these laws may impact them directly.
These are just a few examples of developments impacting our customers in the year ahead. Of course we will look for any ways iCarol can support our customers through these changes, and help them carry out their life saving work. Look for more from us on our blog and webinars for updates on how we are addressing these topics.
The industries we serve aren’t the only ones experiencing progress – iCarol, too, went through positive changes in 2019. In December we moved to a new infrastructure on which the iCarol web application runs – Microsoft Azure. The migration to this new platform was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and effort, and was not without its challenges and setbacks, but we are delighted to now be fully operational in the new environment and excited for all it means for our customers. Microsoft Azure will help us provide the most up-to-date, technologically advanced platform available. We can scale and ramp up performance as needed to meet increases in system use, whether it be due to an event, disaster, or the normal periodic demands on the system that occur for monthly exports and reporting. We are delighted not just by the way this move allows us to be more responsive to system demands, but knowing that Azure offers built-in security services that include unparalleled security intelligence. We are very excited to track data over time to show how this new infrastructure improves performance and stability, and supports the future growth in iCarol’s customer base.
I must acknowledge and express deep gratitude for the great support and patience we received from our customers during this transition and in the months prior. Our customers exercised immense trust and patience with us as we developed the plan to make this sweeping change to our infrastructure. Their user testing of the new environment, feedback, and communication with us greatly contributed to the success of this project. I cannot say enough wonderful things about our customers as essential partners with us on this journey.
There is much more to share about what was accomplished in the year behind us, and what’s on our agenda for the year ahead. Later this month we will host a “State of iCarol” webinar for our customers reviewing 2019 progress and our plans for 2020. You can also look to our blogs and email updates, and for customers, our Admin Dashboard, for more exciting information as it develops.
So, as this new year begins, I wish to thank everyone who makes it their life’s work to help others, most especially our customers, on behalf of the entire iCarol Team. Every day we see the positive impact you have on individuals and communities as a whole, and we could not be more honored to play a small part in the amazing work you do. The team at iCarol is excited to see what 2020 holds and hope for continued progress towards a safer, happier, and healthier society thanks to the work you do.
Vice President, Operations
On Wednesday, October 4th at 1pm EST, iCarol will host a webinar on the topic of Crisis Center/Emergency Department (ED) partnerships, specifically those where crisis centers make follow-up calls to discharged patients who came to the ED presenting with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Research shows that for about 1 in 5 deaths by suicide, the person had actually visited their local emergency department in the weeks before their death. While hospital EDs can keep a person safe in the short-term and provide referrals to long-term care, they aren’t often the best resource to handle the complex and ongoing mental health and emotional needs of someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Most people who visit an ED for concerns related to suicide are discharged after a very short period of time, and the discharge plan often doesn’t involve ongoing direct contact to check and see how the person is doing following their visit, potentially leaving the patient feeling lost and unsupported.
This is where more and more helplines are stepping in. Crisis Centers across North America have engaged in partnerships with their local emergency department to help provide care for ED visitors or discharged patients in the form of follow-up calls. Because crisis center professionals have the best knowledge, training, and resources to provide ongoing care such as this, EDs will make connections between the ED visitor to the crisis center. From there, crisis centers talk to the patient and make a series of follow-up calls or texts to the visitor to keep them feeling supported and engaged with a safety plan. Crisis centers are also best-equipped to see that a person receives referrals to more long-term mental health care or other needed referrals that can help resolve issues compounding a person’s distress and desire to end their life.
During this hour-long webinar, we’ll invite presenters to discuss first-hand experience of these partnerships:
Charissa Tvrdy is a Lead Crisis Clinician and Hospital Follow-Up Coordinator at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners. Ms. Tvrdy is responsible for oversight and project management of RMCP’s Hospital Follow-Up program. She works as a liaison between RMCP and participating Colorado emergency departments. Ms. Tvrdy assists call center staff in the training, implementation, quality assurance and daily operations of the program. Ms. Tvrdy received her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from The University of Kansas. She has experience working in a call center serving people experiencing behavioral health crisis. Ms. Tvrdy also has clinical experience within a Community Mental Health Center.
Dr. Michael Allen built the model Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at Bellevue Hospital. He was chair of the APA’s Task Force on Psych Emergency Services, president of the Am Assoc for Emerg Psychiatry, member the NIH Emergency Medicine Roundtable, a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline steering committee member, a STEP-BD, ED SAFE and PRISM investigator and an author of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s ED Decision Support Guide. He has served as a subject matter expert for the US DOJ Civil Rights Div, CMS, NIMH, the Joint Commission and SAMHSA. He was instrumental in forming the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commission and the Colorado National Collaborative. He is currently Professor of Psychiatry and Emergency Medicine at the Johnson Depression Center, University of Colorado Anschutz Campus and Medical Director of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.
Caitlin Peterson is the Coordinator of Best Practices in Care Transitions for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, working closely with crisis centers, professional organizations, community partners, and mental health providers to support and advocate for follow-up and partnership with crisis centers. Caitlin has worked in the mental health, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention field for over 10 years, 7 of those in various positions, and later manager, of a blended suicide prevention and information and referral hotline. She has a Master of Science degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
We hope you can attend — space is limited so please register ASAP if you’re interested in joining the live presentation. For those who can’t join us, we’ll have the recording available on our website at a later date. To learn more about this webinar and to register, click the button below.
Many of our clients participate in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline is a network of over 160 crisis centers in the U.S. These centers take calls and chats from all across the country, focusing on suicide prevention. These free and confidential services provide crisis support and community resource referrals, 24-hours a day.
Members of the Lifeline network follow proven protocols and guidelines to ensure safe outcomes for those in crisis. Whether you offer crisis services and/or are part of the Lifeline network, protocols and guidelines are critical to the success of your program. Ensuring they are easy to follow not only gives you better outcomes for those in crisis, but makes it easier for your staff and volunteers to do their important work.
I’m often asked by members of the Lifeline network and others in the field doing crisis center work why they should choose iCarol. Very simply put, iCarol is the expert in helping not-for-profit helplines set up their technology, to best support the protocols mentioned above.
In my experience managing a not-for-profit helpline who took calls for the Lifeline, as well as helping iCarol clients do the same, here is how iCarol can help:
- Messaging built right in! Volunteers and staff sign into one system—iCarol—to handle calls for your agencies, calls for the Lifeline, and even chats for the Lifeline, or your own chats or texts. Read more here.
- A live risk assessment gauge, developed by the Lifeline for iCarol, calculates suicide risk in real-time, and provides instructions on the next steps with each risk level. Learn more about this tool.
- Intelligently designed call report forms allow for different ‘paths’ for your call takers. Example: If the call is a Lifeline call, a set of questions appears appropriate for that. Or, if the call is for a different program your agency takes calls for, have a different set of questions pop up.
- Worried that your workers aren’t following certain protocols for imminent risk callers? Take what is described above a step further to make the response(s) required or not. This reduces error, as well as can provide crucial guidance about next steps for the call taker in tense situations.
- Help your workers to provide referrals to community resources, designed in a very easy-to-use interface, even for a worker who is only there a few hours a week can use.
- Provide staff feedback—right in iCarol—to the call taker. This feedback can be private, or visible to all. Perhaps they did not follow a certain protocol of the Lifeline, or another program appropriately. We give you the industry’s best way to provide them this feedback. It alerts them when they log in, to read their feedback, and then tracks it when they do!
- Legal lock of call reports: Did something happen on an interaction that may be subpoenaed or looked into more? You can put a legal lock on it to ensure that no one, even the administrative users in your system, can make changes to it.
Hands down, iCarol is the best solution to support your work with the Lifeline, or other programs.
Want to learn more? Start a free trial or contact me.