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'It's OK to not be OK:' Beshear urges more Kentucky veterans to use 988 crisis lifeline


More than 16,000 Kentucky veterans struggling with their mental health have used the national 988 hotline since launching two years ago.
While the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline doesn’t require callers to disclose personal information to receive support, callers can be directed to the Veterans Crisis Line. In Kentucky, more than 3,700 calls have been routed to the veterans line so far this year, according to data from the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

In a recent speech to the VFW State Convention in Bowling Green, Gov. Andy Beshear urged veterans to seek help.

“We see an epidemic of suicide among our veterans and even our active service members that is unacceptable," Beshear said. "It’s important we have all of the services to make that individual whole at the ready.”

Since launching 988 in July 2022, more than 80,000 calls have been received from residents of Kentucky. 988 connects those in distress to trained counselors 24 hours a day, via calls, chats or text messages.

Thirteen of Kentucky's 14 regional mental health centers serve as call centers, and the 14th is in the process of becoming certified by national 988 standards.

Calls from all 120 counties are routed initially to an in-state center. If they're not answered within 90 seconds, the calls roll over to an out-of-state backup center.

Since May 2023, the state has seen a 40% increase in calls from Kentuckians to 988 and a 53% increase in the number of those calls that are answered in-state.

"The centers work continuously to recruit, train, and retain compassionate local individuals dedicated to helping fellow Kentuckians in crisis," said Brice Mitchell, a spokesman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "Using federal grant funding, the centers have increased the workforce capacity through hiring staff and utilizing volunteers."

Eighty-four percent of calls in May were answered at the local level, according to to CHFS. The current in-state answer rate of 23 seconds remains faster than the national average of 36 seconds.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.