What's next for the 988 hotline? Seth Moulton sees room to grow after Year 1

Part of the website. (Jon Elswick/AP)
Part of the website. (Jon Elswick/AP)

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I’m already excited about the prospect of Big Papi competing against other retired baseball legends in a home run contest next summer. Until then, here’s a look at what we’re watching this week:

It’s been one year since the launch of the 988 hotline. Rep. Seth Moulton — who introduced the bill that created the universal three-digit number for the nation’s suicide prevention and mental health hotlines — says the resource has been a remarkable success helping those in times of crisis. But as the Massachusetts congressman told WBUR’s Paul Connearney, “there’s still more we can do” in its second year and beyond.

  • By the numbers: According to Moulton, the 988 hotline has taken about 180 calls per day from people in Massachusetts. Nationally, the line has fielded roughly 5 million calls, chats and texts in its first year of operation — a 35% increase over the old 10-digit line. For texts, the year-over-year increase is even more stark: 1,135% growth, which Moulton says is “a sad measurement of the need, but also shows you how many young Americans are getting help.”
  • What’s next: Accessibility remains a big focus. The hotline recently launched a Spanish-language line (just press 2 after calling 988). “We want to make sure that there is a more diverse set of counselors who can tailor their expertise to the needs of individual callers,” Moulton said. The hotline is also working on expanding to video calls for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.
  • The biggest challenge: 988 still hasn’t reached 911 status in terms of awareness. A survey in May found that only 18% of adults had heard of 988, and even fewer knew of its purpose. NPR reports call center staffing shortages led federal officials to delay a major media campaign to promote the line. “One of the most important things we can all do now is just make sure everyone knows about this service,” Moulton said. “You can pick up the phone — any phone anywhere in America — and dial 988 and get connected to help.”
  • Get involved: The hotline’s network of call centers still needs staffing help. You apply for open work or volunteer positions — including at the five centers in Massachusetts — on the 988 career page.
  • Go deeper: Moulton recently talked about how his experience as a Marine veteran led to his focus on mental health during a wide-ranging Radio Boston interview. (Did you know he also plays the organ and once took a family vacation to the Seabrook nuclear power plant?) Listen to the segment here.

The City of Boston is expanding its summer school programming with more “enrichment” activities in anticipation of unprecedented student enrollment this season. WBUR’s Carrie Jung reports school officials say participation in summer learning this year is on track to surpass last year’s record-breaking enrollment of 15,851.

  • Most of the growth is happening in the district’s free “5th Quarter” program, which combines activities like sailing, soccer, basketball and filmmaking with corresponding classroom instruction.
  • There’s still time to sign up your child: While 5th Quarter programs run from July 10 to Aug. 11, late registration is an option. The signup deadline is this Friday.

The local nonprofit TransitMatters has launched a new data dashboard to help MBTA riders understand what’s going on with their commute. The dashboard includes information about each line’s speed, wait times, slow zones and ridership, and it’s updated each week.

  • What’s new? TransitMatters software engineer Patrick Cleary tells WBUR’s Andrea Perdomo-Hernandez the dashboard puts a lot of data that was previously spread across their website in one place. “We wanted to make it so that you don’t have to dig for information anymore,” Cleary said.
  • Explore: Not only does the dashboard show information for the RedOrangeGreen and Blue lines, it also tracks speed and wait data for over a dozen MBTA bus routes.

P.S.— It’s officially “Barbenheimer” week and, yes, there’s a local angle. The Boston Public Library has a reading list of 21 Barbie-inspired books to get you hyped ahead of the July 21 opening of the Greta Gerwig film. The topics range from female friendship to fashion to feminism to maximalist interior design. Check them out (or place a hold) on the BPL’s website. (Harvard Library, we’re waiting on a J. Robert Oppenheimer reading list, please.)


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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