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One year numbers show the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is reaching more individuals

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline marks one year of operation on July 16.
Ryan Levi
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Tradeoffs
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline marks one year of operation on July 16.

It has been a little over a year since the national suicide lifeline number was simplified to 988 and it’s been a year since Wyoming opened 24/7 call services for the lifeline in the state. People have been using the service more since then.

Since last July, if someone with a Wyoming area code dialed 988, the person answering would also be in Wyoming.

“It's incredibly important to have access to state call centers,” said Andi Summerville, executive director of Wyoming Association of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Centers (WAMHSAC). “People that live in Wyoming, know the terrain, the geography…where people can go to get services, and really what it's like to live in Wyoming.”

Since the state call centers have opened 24/7, Summerville said calls have increased by 62 percent. Plus, there were over 1,000 text messages --- a service that didn’t exist until this past year.

“We know that the most prolific users of chat and text features are young folks. So probably under the age of 25, or 30, that are utilizing that feature,” she said. “And so we're excited to have that coming in and seeing those numbers grow.”

Summerville said the ability to have 24/7 services in the state is going to continue to grow as people gain more awareness. But gaining that awareness is currently one of the biggest challenges.

“It's difficult to build a program and one that is obviously being utilized without having the ability to predict that stable funding,” said Summerville. “To bring new features online and really go after things like the chat and text service the way it needs to be done.”

It is currently funded through June of 2025 primarily with COVID emergency federal funding, but centers still have to fundraise to supplement state money. Legislators didn’t fund it in the last legislative session but will have the opportunity to again this year.

Suicide is a significant problem in Wyoming. The state has the most suicides per capita of any state most years. Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon has put an emphasis on shoring up Wyoming’s mental health care.

“I look forward to further useful suggestions and fruitful discussions about how Wyoming can sustainably fund this important resource going forward,” Gordon said. “We are still losing too many of our neighbors.”

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. She has won a regional Murrow award for her reporting on mental health and firearm owners. During her time leading the Wyoming Public Media newsroom, reporters have won multiple PMJA, Murrow and Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism Awards. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.

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