988 Suicide Prevention Hotline goes live in Kansas

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From Saturday, Kansans will have a much easier way to get help for themselves or someone in a mental health crisis: dial 988.

The 988 suicide prevention hotline has been in the works nationwide since Congress laid the groundwork in 2020, though it is up to states to fund and support the work. It will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The idea is to help residents remember more easily how to access mental health support.

“With 9-8-8, we are on the path to reversing our nation’s mental health crisis and getting the help the Kansans need,” Governor Laura Kelly said in a statement announcing the commissioning of the hotline. call 9-1-1 in an emergency, every American – and every Kansan – will soon know how to call 9-8-8 when they or a loved one is facing a mental health or addiction crisis.

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What happens when I call 988 in Kansas?

When a person dials 988, they are transferred to the geographically closest crisis hotline. In most counties, this is the Lawrence-based Kansas Suicide Prevention Headquarters, although Wichita residents are referred to a line run by local mental health provider, COMCARE.

If all carriers are blocked, the call would then be transferred to an out-of-state hotline, although Monica Kurtz, executive director of the Kansas Suicide Prevention Headquarters, said this was avoided. at all costs.

“We believe pretty strongly that Kansans are best served by Kansans,” Kurtz said in an interview earlier this year. “That we have a better idea of ​​what’s going on in our state and the resources available to people than someone who isn’t here.”

Providers expect a significant increase in calls due to the new number.

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What resources are available by calling 988?

Operators can connect callers to local resources, such as therapy, a nearby community mental health center or even emergency services, depending on the severity of the situation.

This may also include the deployment of mobile crisis units to help people in distress.

These units may include law enforcement, social workers or paramedics, as needed, in an effort to better ensure people in crisis receive the exact help they need.

After:A new suicide prevention hotline is coming — what if the Kansas legislature doesn’t fund it?

How does the state support 988?

Kansas lawmakers approved $10 million in funding from the state budget to set up and operate the hotline and fund some of the services, such as mobile crisis units.

Lawmakers also passed a separate bill, later signed by Kelly, allowing the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services to start some mental health services, create an advisory board, and hire staff to support the hotline.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night, or chat online. The Kansas Suicide Prevention Line can be reached at 785-841-2345.

Andrew Bahl is a senior reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 443-979-6100.

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