Area call centers prep for launch of 988 hotline for mental health emergencies

In less than a month people across the country will be able to dial 988 to seek help during a mental health crisis.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 4:19 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - In less than a month, people across the country will be able to dial 988 to seek help during a mental health crisis.

”You know with 911 if you someone typically comes and what we know about crisis services is that often they can be deescalated over the phone,” explained Emily Blomme, CEO at Foundation 2 Crisis Services.

Foundation 2 Crisis Services is one of two centers in the state that will be answering calls to 988. The second center is CommUnity Crisis Services in Iowa City.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, in Linn County is working to spread the word about the new, simplified phone number.

”77% of people don’t know about 988 so we have a lot of work to do to get the public aware,” said Dr. Mona McCalley-Whitters, Executive Director at NAMI Linn County.

In addition to calling, people will be able to text 988 or use the Lifeline chat online to connect with a crisis counselor.

With the ease of seeking help, Foundation 2 Crisis Services is concerned about meeting anticipated demand. It’s estimated 71,000 Iowans will call, chat or text 988 during the first 12 months of it launching.

“I do worry that people will call, and we won’t have enough counselors to answer,” said Blomme.

They’re seeking more crisis counselors to help meet the need.

If a call center in the state is not able to pick up, the call will be rerouted to a center in another state. While every call will be answered, Blomme says having them answered locally is ideal.

”We know that Iowans are best suited to serve Iowans, our team knows the resources better than others,” Blomme said.

She told us about 87% of situations can be deescalated over the phone, saving lives.

The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 1-800-273-8255 is still active for anyone who is struggling. Starting July 16th you can simply dial 988 instead.

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