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UPDATE: 988 mental health hotline back online after widespread outage

WASHINGTON — The nation’s new 988 hotline, intended to help anyone experiencing a mental health emergency, was out of service for several hours Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

The hotline is now back up for those in crisis.

Those who were trying to reach the line for help with suicide, depression, or other mental health crises were greeted with a message that says the line is “experiencing a service outage.”

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People were able to reach a mental health counselor through the lifeline by texting “988″ or opening a chat at 988lifeline.org.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw the launch of the three-digit lifeline earlier this year, is in communication with the contractor that supports the line, HHS spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim said in a tweet Thursday.

Around 11:20 p.m. Lovenheim tweeted that individuals in crisis can resume calling the number for support.

“While HHS and VA immediately acted to provide support to 988 callers via text, chat, and alternate numbers, the disruption of phone service was unacceptable, and HHS continues to investigate the root cause of the outage.”

Lovenheim addressed the issue around 2:00 p.m. on Thursday.

“We’ve taken immediate action to ensure alternative 988 channels are available to the public,” Lovenheim tweeted. The outage had been ongoing for several hours Thursday, she said.

Veterans who are looking to reach the helpline can call the Veterans Crisis Line directly at 877-267-6030. The outage also affected the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline.

The 988 helpline, launched in July, is a national helpline staffed with mental health counselors around the country that’s designed to be as easy to remember as the emergency line, 911.

Intrado, the telecommunications provider for the service, could not immediately be reached for comment. In a statement on its website, the company said it is “experiencing an incident that is impacting production across numerous systems” and is “working diligently to restore service.”