The number of calls received by the VA's Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) since its launch in 2007, according to a Military Times article announcing the opening of a third call center for the service on the campus of the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System in Topeka. The other two call centers, which operate around the clock with about 500 staffers, are in New York and Georgia.
The article says the crisis line has "provided emergency intervention for unstable individuals more than 84,000 times" and "interacted with nearly 440,000 more individuals through chat and text services."
Lawmakers and outside groups have praised the service as an invaluable suicide prevention tool, but its operations have also come under criticism in recent years for failing to keep up with demands.
Last spring, a VA Inspector General report found that more than one-fourth of calls to the hotline were being redirected to other emergency response services because of shortfalls with the VCL system. Shulkin testified before lawmakers shortly thereafter that the problems had been addressed, and nearly all calls are now being handled in-house.
According to the article, the Senate's 2018 fiscal plan for VA funding includes an extra $10 million for the crisis line.