A new national suicide hotline number will be available in July: 988.
In Ohio, the 988 number will connect to one of 15 designated lifeline call answering points. Trained mental health specialists will answer the calls, providing both counseling and direction to resources for mental health care.
The new number is based on the success of 911, which has been used as an emergency number for all types of crises since 1968. Officials hope that sending suicide calls to 988 will take pressure off the 911 system, which sends police and/or paramedics to a scene.
The 988 calls will connect people immediately to mental health crisis services. It also will improve the information provided. At present, more than 40 percent of Ohio’s suicide prevention calls are answered by people from other states who don’t know the Ohio system and cannot give advice about accessing its resources.
All this will change with 988. In Ohio, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is implementing the new line with federal startup funds of $400 million.
In addition to the designated call line, NAMI Ohio is also asking for the development of a better, more thorough crisis response system, allowing the specialist to help direct people to housing, rehabilitation services and employment services. I agree with this, although I know it will be difficult to get the funding. After all, it doesn’t help much to answer the phone if you can’t direct people to the help they need.