Washington to invest more in 988 mental health crisis line

HB 1134 will fund mobile units and increased training for the hotline and response service that launched last summer.

Brian Littmann., a volunteer with the regional crisis hotline

Brian Littmann, a volunteer with the regional crisis hotline, answers a call at his desk in Crisis Connections. (Amanda Snyder/Crosscut)

Washington lawmakers have decided to invest more money in the state’s crisis-response system to meet a growing need fueled in part by the easier-to-remember 988 national crisis hotline number.

HB 1134 will fund mobile units and training for crisis teams as well as help increase exposure for the crisis line, which was launched in addition to the still-functional 10-digit suicide prevention hotline. The proposal also created a pathway toward better coordination between the 988 and 911 systems.

The measure is awaiting the governor’s signature, as well as a final vote on the state budget, but gained unanimous approval in both houses. A concurrence vote in the House on Senate changes was not unanimous, however. The Senate delayed implementation of some aspects of the proposal as well as a series of other changes outlined in this legislative document.

Calls to 988 within King County are routed to Crisis Connections, a nonprofit call center based in Seattle that is one of three centers – alongside Volunteers of America and Frontier Behavioral Health – that provide mobile behavioral crisis services for people across the state. Crisis Connections reported a 25%-30% increase in calls since the 988 hotline was implemented last July.

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