A Year of Lifesaving Impact:

Oregon Enhances 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

As we celebrate the first anniversary of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, the state of Oregon is taking significant steps to enhance this vital service. On the last day of the 2023 legislative session, Oregon lawmakers passed a bill to fund and expand mental health crisis services, which experts are calling one of the most significant pieces of suicide prevention legislation in the state’s history.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has been active nationwide since July 2022. The 988 Implementation Act, now headed to Governor Tina Kotek’s desk, will secure and expand 988 services in Oregon by introducing a $0.40 per month tax on all phone lines in the state beginning in 2024. The revenue generated by this tax will support operation of the 988 Lifeline and associated crisis resources in Oregon.

Chris Bouneff, the Oregon Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and a key proponent of the bill, emphasized the importance of a reliable revenue stream for the call centers. “We have two 988 call centers here in the state of Oregon for this 24/7 service. Operating these call centers day and night is expensive infrastructure – but very important for getting people the support they need,” said Bouneff.

The estimated revenue from the phone tax is expected to start at $30 million for the first two years after it goes into effect in 2024, and then increase to $50 million to $60 million per two years after. In addition to operating the call centers, funds will be used to expand mobile mental health crisis units, reducing the need for police officers to respond when someone is in mental distress.

Dwight Holton, Director of Portland-based Lines for Life, one of the 988 call centers for the state, noted that calls have increased by about 50% in the past year – since the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline service changed to 988. He credits the increase in calls to the simplicity of the 988 number, which is easier for people to remember during times of crisis.

As we commemorate the first anniversary of the 988 Lifeline, Oregon’s underscores its commitment to providing accessible mental health support for its residents by taking this proactive step to enhance 988 service and efficacy. The 988 Lifeline continues to be more than just a number—it’s a critical support for those in need.