VANCOUVER — Washington’s Native and Strong Lifeline launched Thursday, the first program across the country dedicated to serving American Indian and Alaska Native people. The line is operated by Volunteers of America Western Washington, one of the three 988 crisis centers in the state. Calls will be answered by Native crisis counselors who are tribal members and descendants, according to a press release.

“American Indians suffer from higher rates of suicide and mental health crises stemming from intergenerational trauma caused by aggressive assimilation efforts of the federal government and religious institutions,” said Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, in the release. “We applaud the Washington State Department of Health’s recognition of these challenges and the need for our people to receive culturally appropriate care in times of crisis.”

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