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Montana crisis centers see changes in caller traffic following the launch of 988

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Kelli McClintock
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Unsplash
The new 988 number was created to be easy to remember, making it more accessible

A few weeks after the launch of the new three-digit Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number, some of Montana’s call centers say they’re already seeing an increase in use.

Because of 988’s accessibility and promotion surrounding the launch, the state’s three crisis call centers were anticipating an increase in caller traffic of up to 30% with the start of the new number. Mandy St. Aubyn with the Help Center in Bozeman says they haven’t seen the spike they were expecting, but she thinks it may be too soon to tell.

“We also know that 988 is a new number, and it will take time to get the word out about it," St. Aubyn said.

Meanwhile, the other two call centers say they've already seen a shift. Cory DeStein from the Western Montana Mental Health Center in Missoula says there’s been a 10% increase in call volume since 988 started on July 16. The center responded to nearly 160 calls in July.

Voices of Hope in Great Falls reports caller traffic has been steadily increasing since launching 988, and they are receiving more calls from one week to the next.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, you can call 988.

Ellis Juhlin is YPR's Statehouse reporter based in Helena.