Iowa sees increased calls, need for more crisis counselors with launch of 988 lifeline

Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 4:23 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -More Iowans in crisis are seeking help through the nationwide launch of the 988 lifeline. Saturday marks two weeks since the launch.

When Iowans contact 988 they’re answered by CommUnity Crisis Services in Iowa City, or Foundation 2 Crisis Services in Cedar Rapids. Both centers answered what was the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and have watched call volume grow with the new simplified phone number.

”Phones shook out at about double the volume of calls,” said Sarah Nelson, Chief Executive Officer at Community Crisis Services.

Its volume that’s expected to continue to rise over the next year.

”We were given projections by Vibrant and SAMHSA which show a growth in the tens of thousands,” explained Drew Martel, Director of Crisis Services at Foundation 2 Crisis Services.

It’s not just calls, more Iowans are texting and chatting 988. Those contacts are up 25%, and there is an even greater trend nationally.

”Nationally they saw texting increase 10-times what it typically is now that people can text 988 to get a crisis counselor,” Nelson said.

Those responding believe the publicity of the rollout and the ease of the phone number are behind the increase in people seeking help. Locally, it means there’s a need for more crisis counselors to respond.

”We’ve had to pull staff that are trained from other departments, we’ve had to offer time and a half and increased pay rates to make sure that we have people answering at surge levels because we’re seeing that higher volume,” Nelson explained.

While both centers are hiring, they say they are prepared to answer to those who need help.

”You could be depressed, you could be anxious, you could be experiencing thoughts of suicide or you could be worried about someone else,” Martel said.

Those in crisis, should not hesitate to call, text or chat 988.

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