Prior to 2000, many in the suicide prevention field doubted the effectiveness of crisis call centers. There was little research or data to evidence positive outcomes and few national standards of practice.
Dr. John Draper had been working a NYC mobile crisis team and later started the city’s Lifenet crisis call center. In 2001, this experience was vital and came together to support the largest disaster mental health response in the nation’s history following 9/11.
In 2004, SAMHSA awarded the Mental Health Association of New York City (now known as Vibrant Emotional Health) the contract to manage the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a network of over 150 crisis agencies across the country. In 2005, SAMHSA released a series of findings from independent evaluators of Lifeline member crisis centers, demonstrating that these crisis centers were effective in reducing emotional distress among crisis callers and significantly reducing suicidality among suicidal callers.
From 2005 to 2010, these centers dramatically increased the capacity and calls to 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), implemented a Veteran’s Crisis Line through a partnership with the VA, and added chat technology to augment the telephonic interface. More importantly, they introduced best practice standards which are utilized across the network. The most important advances included:
- 2007 publication of the SAMHSA Suicide Risk Assessment Standards; and
- 2011 publication of the SAMHSA Policies and Guidelines for Helping Callers at Imminent Risk of Suicide
The professional orientation to crisis services led by Dr. Draper and the Lifeline inspired Zero Suicide architects with the power of a systems approach and top leadership engagement. Dr. Draper was a key member of the Action Alliance Clinical Care and Intervention Task Force that published the Suicide Care in Systems Framework.