SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — WSAV is taking a closer look at the launch of the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, specifically in Georgia.

Georgia already has an infrastructure setup to respond to crisis calls, but the state has laid out plans to keep up with a growing demand.

Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald says, “While a transformation of this magnitude can be intimidating, it’s also a really important opportunity to change lives.” She says the number of people in crisis are growing.

In 2021 the received 275,000 calls, texts and chats. They expect that number to double by 2023 with 988 in place.

Monica Johnson, also with Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, says, “We’re going to be laser focused on making sure that we have the capacity that there is someone on that phone on the other line of that phone to be able to have the someone to talk to mission be achieved.”

By 2023 the department’s goal is to have enough staffing to answer 90% of all 988 calls. By 2025 they plan to have enough Mobile Crisis Response Teams to serve at least 80% of callers within an hour. By 2027 provide access to community based crisis care to 80% of callers.

To attract more licensed professionals to answer calls and respond to crises, DBHDD is working to forgive students loans for those who stay in the mental health field.

If you are in crisis you can dial 988 or click here.