Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis in America will soon be able to call for help as easy as it is to call 911.A new three-digit number goes into effect in mid-July. Federal legislation passed in 2020 requires states to transition from the 10-digit national suicide prevention lifeline number (1-800-273-8255) to 988 by July 16.Just over a month away, mental health advocates are concerned the system is going to be overwhelmed and funding is not in place to address issues and concerns that arise.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.”The number of people who are being impacted by mental health has continued to accelerate over the last two years, and the need is extremely high right now. We just hired two new people. We’re stretched very thin,” said Nancy Eigel-Miller, Executive Director of 1N5, a nonprofit that works to educate and raise awareness about mental health.”I’m happy that they’re creating a number that makes it really easy for people to call, and it should be widely promoted so people know what it is,” Eigel-Miller said. “But I am very concerned. I mean there’s a major workforce shortage that’s happening across the board, and the last thing you want to happen is that someone calls the number and nobody picks it upIn Ohio, 988 will accept calls, texts and chats from anyone experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis or anyone concerned for a loved one going through a crisis. House Bill 468, which establishes the hotline in Ohio and the infrastructure to pay for it, passed the Ohio House and is currently sitting in a Senate subcommittee. “People across America really need 988. They need an easy way to get ahold of someone who can help them if they or a loved one is struggling with a mental health emergency,” said Julie Cerel, University of Kentucky professor and director of the Suicide Prevention & Exposure Lab. “There’s been a lot of scrambling around, but almost every state is not ready for this rollout,” Cerel said. She said increased attention on the hotline, the press surrounding the launch and the number of Americans actively in need of help are expected to lead to a surge of calls.”The call volume, the estimates are, will go up somewhere between 20 to 40 percent,” Cerel said. “Without a lot of resources to have the very best trained people answering those phone lines, it’s a little worrisome that there’s going to be a lot of demand and wait times could be high or not the best people could be answering the phones.”At the state level, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana have spent more than a year preparing for the switch to 988. Lawmakers still need to address long-term funding concerns for the program.

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis in America will soon be able to call for help as easy as it is to call 911.

A new three-digit number goes into effect in mid-July. Federal legislation passed in 2020 requires states to transition from the 10-digit national suicide prevention lifeline number (1-800-273-8255) to 988 by July 16.

Just over a month away, mental health advocates are concerned the system is going to be overwhelmed and funding is not in place to address issues and concerns that arise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.

“The number of people who are being impacted by mental health has continued to accelerate over the last two years, and the need is extremely high right now. We just hired two new people. We’re stretched very thin,” said Nancy Eigel-Miller, Executive Director of 1N5, a nonprofit that works to educate and raise awareness about mental health.

“I’m happy that they’re creating a number that makes it really easy for people to call, and it should be widely promoted so people know what it is,” Eigel-Miller said. “But I am very concerned. I mean there’s a major workforce shortage that’s happening across the board, and the last thing you want to happen is that someone calls the number and nobody picks it up

In Ohio, 988 will accept calls, texts and chats from anyone experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis or anyone concerned for a loved one going through a crisis.

House Bill 468, which establishes the hotline in Ohio and the infrastructure to pay for it, passed the Ohio House and is currently sitting in a Senate subcommittee.

“People across America really need 988. They need an easy way to get ahold of someone who can help them if they or a loved one is struggling with a mental health emergency,” said Julie Cerel, University of Kentucky professor and director of the Suicide Prevention & Exposure Lab.

“There’s been a lot of scrambling around, but almost every state is not ready for this rollout,” Cerel said.

She said increased attention on the hotline, the press surrounding the launch and the number of Americans actively in need of help are expected to lead to a surge of calls.

“The call volume, the estimates are, will go up somewhere between 20 to 40 percent,” Cerel said. “Without a lot of resources to have the very best trained people answering those phone lines, it’s a little worrisome that there’s going to be a lot of demand and wait times could be high or not the best people could be answering the phones.”

At the state level, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana have spent more than a year preparing for the switch to 988. Lawmakers still need to address long-term funding concerns for the program.



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