COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — It’s been two months since the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned to 988.

According to mental health advocates, calls to South Carolina’s only national lifeline call center have increased 63% since that change.

The South Carolina Suicide Prevention Coalition met in Columbia this week. They discussed various programs and initiatives in the state.

Jennifer Roberts with Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center also shared the latest lifeline data. Roberts said the numbers show 75% of calls are being answered in state at the call center in Greenville.

The other 25% have been routed to back up centers in other states. “The call centers do have information about the rest of the states. They do their best to either connect people to those resources or give them the information,” Roberts said.

Advocates worry when calls are routed out of state it could take a little longer for the call to be picked up and someone in a crisis may hang up before they speak with someone.

According to Roberts, the goal is to have 100% of these calls from South Carolinians answered in state.

State lawmakers set aside money in this year’s state budget for a back up center. It will be in Charleston County and should be operation in early 2023.

Advocates are urging lawmakers to establish a sustainable state funding mechanism for 988 call center staffing. NAMI-SC Executive Director Bill Lindsey said, “We really need to be able to staff those positions and those call centers.”

Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) said during the coalition meeting, “This Senator hears you and I think there’s a House member out there and he may hear you too.”

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also call SCDMH’s Mobile Crisis Team at 833-364-2274.