Central CA suicide prevention hotline prepares for switch to 988 number

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is upgrading to its own three-digit number in the summer. When that happens, behavioral health leaders across the country expect an increase in callers.

In Central California, the Kings View Central Valley Suicide Prevention Hotline is preparing to ensure people in crisis don't have to wait on hold when they call for help.

Starting July 16, anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or an emotional crisis can dial 988 to access their local suicide prevention hotline.

"It should increase two to three times our normal call volumes," shared program manager David Lopez.

Lopez said financial support will help with staffing and prevent callers from long hold times. Funding is coming from the county and the state.

According to Lopez, California is distributing about $20 million to the 13 call centers across the state, including Kings View.

"So about half the funding will go to the technology platforms across the board," Lopez said. "The rest will go to the individual crisis centers for the actual building space, hiring new people, increasing the training, getting actual team members on board so that we can service this lifeline appropriately."

The past two years have taken an emotional and mental toll on adults and children, so up-to-date training is crucial. This means making sure training is aligned to what's been happening throughout the pandemic and the unique situations people may be facing.

A team member tells Action News that many calls are from adults stressed over money or children worried about the potential of going into isolation if they're sick.

"Not only can they be heard and validated and express some things that they're going through, help them keep safe for now, but actually receive a couple of skills at the end of the phone call that they can take with them to get them to the next day," said Lopez.

While Lopez said he's grateful for support from the county, there are concerns over whether the state will continue helping a historically under-funded area in the long-term -- as he doesn't see the number of calls decreasing anytime soon.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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