As the state agency responsible for providing prevention, intervention and treatment services and supports for children, youth, and adults with mental health and/or substance use disorders in the District of Columbia (DC), the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) serves as the applicant for the 988 State and Territory Cooperative Agreements. The District of Columbia has only one National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) certified by the American Association Suicidology (AAS); Access Helpline (AHL) housed within the DBH.
The AHL provides a seven-day-a-week twenty-four-hours-a-day behavioral health crisis hotline, staffed by behavioral health professionals who de-escalate caller when possible or connect callers to immediate help or ongoing care as clinically appropriate or necessary. In this capacity, the AHL Call Center answers calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for the District of Columbia.
The DBH plans to expand the AHL workforce and functions to include chat, text, follow-up, and training opportunities to be better equipped to handle contacts across these modalities. The DBH and AHL will develop plans to sustain workforce capacity, adhere to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and to reduce the number of calls going to national backup call centers.
The DBH currently serves 6,930 Lifeline callers annually. According to Vibrant Emotional Health, the projected number of contacts to be referred to DBH in Year One of the 988 implementation will be 16,100. The DBH will review internal workflows to ensure that Lifeline calls continue to take precedence over non-crisis call functions and plans to increase existing AHL staff to ensure that calls are answered promptly.