988 National Mental Health Number enters into force on 16 July Local news

TThe national emergency number 911 is easy to remember for Americans who seek help immediately. On July 16, a second three-digit number – 988 – will become the main number for Americans seeking mental health care.

The Freeman Health System’s Ozark Center will be one of 200 crisis centers nationwide to receive these calls from mid-July, said Debbie Fitzgerald, director of crisis services.

“We encourage people to call 988 if you have an emotional or mental crisis,” she said. “If you’re experiencing stress, depression, insomnia, thoughts of self-harm, substance abuse, parenting, homelessness, insecurity at home, or (you need) help with utilities – it’s really one-stop-shop to get help.” hours of the day, seven days a week. ”

People can call the numbers anytime and anywhere and will be redirected to their nearest network center, where “a trained crisis specialist who has undergone in-depth training on how to provide supportive counseling, how to access the risk of self-harm can help, “Fitzgerald said.

The Ozark Center will receive calls from people living in area code 417, Fitzgerald said, and has a working goal to answer an individual phone call in 20 seconds or less.

“Suicide is the most preventable leading cause of death (in the nation) and so we hope (988) will be an easy entry point and encourage people to call and we will be able to provide these resources and help… just then and there” , she said.

Those who call, talk to or text 988 can expect to be connected to a crisis specialist who is trained and prepared to provide support to anyone experiencing a crisis, according to the Missouri Department of Mental Health. The crisis specialist will work with the person to understand and respond to the person’s concerns and needs. Intervention may include assessment, stabilization, targeting, and follow-up for individuals at high risk of suicide and / or poor mental health outcomes. If a higher level of care is needed, the crisis specialist will work with the caller to connect them to a mobile crisis response team.

There is hope among crisis professionals and health care providers that the 988 will eventually replace the urge many Americans to call 911 when suffering from a mental health crisis. The new three-digit number will not replace the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is 800-273-8255.

“What we’re doing is just adding another line to better help more people who need help,” Fitzgerald said. “People should never be afraid to call day or night and ask for help.”

Between July 2021 and December 2022, Ozark Center received two 988 grants for $ 381,955; employees there are currently using the funding to hire and train seven people, Fitzgerald said. Previously, the center had one or two people answering phones during the day and one person at night, but from July 16 there will be three people on duty during the day and three at night.

“We expect the volume of calls to increase a lot,” said Hailey Bradshaw, a crisis service supervisor, “and it will be interesting to see how much it increases and what it will look like.”

In October 2020, President Donald Trump signed the measure defining 988 as the universal number for the national hotline.

“I hope people will no longer perceive mental health as shameful or stigmatized,” Fitzgerald said, “because I say the brain is the most important organ in the body and can get dysfunction just like the heart or kidneys, so I hope so. that when we have annual checkups, your doctor will start talking to you about a screen for depression or anxiety. What I would like the community to know is that we listen and we care and we want to help, and there is hope here. “

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