Alabama prepares to launch 988 suicide and crisis hotline

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Starting Saturday, July 16, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will change from a 10-digit phone number to a three-digit number.

The new number is 988. As with 911, the idea behind the speed dial is to make it easy to remember in a crisis.

“We truly believe this number 988 will save lives,” said Kimberly Boswell, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. “We truly believe that giving people an easy way to access behavioral health services is one of the most important things we can do for the citizens of Alabama.”

The number works nationally, so anyone facing a mental health crisis can call. Calls are routed to local call centers, so people can get the help they need in their cities.

“988 is the thread that connects Alabama’s crisis care system,” Commissioner Boswell said.

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According to the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature have funded six crisis centers across the state. The centers offer services at tiered levels.

One of the crisis centers is located here in northern Alabama. WellStone is located in Huntsville, adjacent to Memorial Parkway. It serves Madison and surrounding counties.

News 19 spoke with WellStone CEO Jeremy Blair ahead of the 988 launch.

“It’s really just an extension of what’s been in place for many, many years — but in Alabama what’s happening is we’re basically increasing the number of rescue centers, so we’re able to increase call rate response for our state,” Blair said.

The former National 10-Figure Suicide Prevention Lifeline also connected people to local services. However, he said he was excited about the easier-to-remember number 988.

“One of our goals at WellStone is to somehow increase access to care and any resources that we can use to help develop what we are passionate about,” Blair continued.

WellStone will soon be transitioning to a new facility, right next to its current facility; however, construction of the new facility is not yet complete.

News 19 asked Blair if WellStone was ready for a potential increase in call volume as the new number rolls out.

“We’re anticipating some increase,” Blair told News 19. “It’s a bit difficult to gauge what that call volume will be, until we really get into it, we’ll just have to adjust gradually. “

The establishment seems to be increasing its staff. According to a Publish Blair shared on Twitter, WellStone is having a job fair at its factory on July 22.

Regarding the launch of 988, Blair and Commissioner Boswell urged people to be patient during the deployment.

“I think the big thing to remember, you know, when we started 911 many years ago, it wasn’t perfect day one and the 911 system is a system that has evolved,” Blair said. . “Things won’t be perfect on day one of 988’s launch, but it will be a system that will evolve over time.”

Commissioner Boswell said: “We are absolutely ready at this stage.”

“We’re going to be monitoring call volume because, much like when 911 came out, it took people a little while to get used to dialing the number, and then once they realized they could actually get to the services they needed, and then the call volume started to increase,” Boswell continued.

Commissioner Boswell said the pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues for many people across the state.

“One of the worst things you can do for your mental health is isolation,” she said. Boswell said it has prompted more people to seek help for their mental health issues.

Similar to Blair, Boswell said the Alabama Department of Mental Health will monitor call volumes, with the goal “to make sure we have the resources available for callers.”

If you call 988, Blair said you’ll be asked a series of questions over the phone to determine the first steps to take. He said people shouldn’t be afraid to call when they need help.

Boswell said the number is available for anyone in need of assistance. She listed questions, suicidal thoughts and other mental health crises as reasons people should call 988.

The commissioner also said family members can call if they are concerned about a loved one and need resources.

If you or someone you love needs help, call the Suicide and Crisis Prevention Lifeline at 988. The old Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will also remain. active.


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