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Suicide Risk Assessment for 988 Receives Boost from Grant

A federal agency has awarded $2.1 million to a pair of companies to use AI algorithms to monitor the quality of 988 operators' suicide risk assessments, building on the crisis hotline's rollout nationwide one year ago.

A desk phone and attached headset.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has awarded a $2.1 million grant to two companies to provide AI-based tools to boost suicide risk assessment on calls to the new 988 hotline.

The grant will allow’s AI software to hook into ProtoCall Services’ 988 operations. Lyssn offers AI software for monitoring the quality of suicide risk assessments, as well as supervision and training, according to a press release.

The 988 lifeline formally began in July 2022 nationwide to take calls from people experiencing mental health crises. It takes more than 300,000 calls, chats and texts each month.

The lifeline’s operators hope to assess each and every caller for suicide risk.

“Federal, state and local governments are investing billions of dollars to increase access to evidence-based crisis counseling services, but until recently, we had limited technical ability to accurately measure the quality of that care. For that reason, NIMH identified a pressing public health need: to better measure at scale what is happening within crisis calls,” said ProtoCall Chief Clinical Officer Brad Pendergraft in the statement. “Previously, doing so was an aspirational goal because there just were not any trusted tools to evaluate the quality of crisis counseling at scale. With the development of Lyssn AI and the potential to further refine its already proven capabilities, we will, our people will be better equipped to quickly and accurately assess how these practices are being delivered in crisis calls and texts. Providing counselors with this crucial feedback creates an opportunity for them to refine and sharpen their skills, providing the best possible support resources.”

Editor's note: This story's wording has been changed to clarify how Lyssn's software works.