Mental health groups express concern over readiness of new suicide prevention hotline – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) — Leading mental health and suicide prevention groups are voicing their concerns about this the new, shorter number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 988 – won’t be ready to handle an expected influx of calls when it goes nationwide next month.

Beginning July 16, people seeking mental health services can call 988 for access to counselors and response teams from the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Calls will be redirected to the current number, 1-800-273-8255, which will remain operational during and after the 988 expansion.

The new number is intended to make it easier for people in crisis to reach someone who can help, and the federal agency responsible for the hotline expects the number of calls to double from 2020. But with more than 200 call centers currently in existence nationwide, groups for mental health are concerned that 988 could deplete resources and lead to increased wait times and abandoned calls. Without additional funding for the upcoming service, these groups say callers won’t get the help they need, and officials concede the hotline is unlikely to be fully staffed when it rolls out.

“While this is a game changer, it is also an exciting opportunity to transform our current crisis care system into something that is not a one-size-fits-all model, but rather takes into account the lived experiences and realities of many affected communities. Behavioral or mental health crisis, we are a little concerned that implementation.” may not be ready yet,” said Preston Mitchum, director of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for young LGBTQ people.

Bob Gebbia, the CEO of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told CNN that “a major concern is that demand could exceed capacity very quickly and these centers could be overwhelmed.”

“When that happens, calls drop, wait times increase, and the people who are on the other end who are having problems don’t get the connection they need,” Gebbia said.

Bracing for spans in use

The calling line received 3.6 million calls, chats and SMS in 2020. After the move to 988, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, expects contact volume to double in that first year to 6 million, potentially up to 12 million.

Since the FCC approved 988 in 2020, the federal government and call line manager, Vibrant Emotional Health, have prepared for the nationwide adoption of the three-digit number by providing states with call center support grants and actively seeking more to recruit crisis advisors. (People interested in learning more can visit www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/jobs.)

The Biden administration has committed $282 million for the 988 transition, including state and territory funding to improve response rates and capacity to meet future demand. A 2021 SAMHSA Funds Report to Congress reported that lifeline capacity was sufficient to handle approximately 85% of calls based on Vibrant’s internal analysis of December 2020 data, the most recent data available.

dr John Palmieri, acting director of SAMHSA’s 988 and Behavioral Health Crisis Coordination Office, acknowledged to CNN that states currently have varying degrees of preparedness, adding, “It will take time for us to build the capacity to do this which we believe is necessary.” Some states have funds and plan to increase staffing for 988, but only four — Colorado, Nevada, Washington and Virginia — have introduced a monthly phone bill fee similar to the fee, according to the National Alliance. Americans pay for funding 911 on the subject of mental illness.

SAMHSA and mental health groups have all stressed the need for states to approve the fee and said it will help sustain 988 beyond this year.

But in the meantime, several states have reported challenges to catch up.

One such lifeline member, the Arkansas Crisis Center, saw a 700% increase in calls over the past two years, but was operating with the same number of staff, according to its executive director, Rebecca Brubaker.

Alaska’s crisis intervention service Careline said it had a recent opportunity to raise wages and is now seeing a significant increase in applicants, said executive director Susanna Marchuk. But alongside the short timeframe until the July 16 rollout, rebuilding the workforce after departures amid the Covid-19 pandemic has been another challenge.

The Central Wyoming Counseling Center is currently staffed to answer the approximately 500 calls it receives monthly and recently received a one-time $2.1 million grant from the state Legislature to provide related services the watch, according to Andi Summerville, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Mental Health and Substances Abuse Center. But Summerville called the funding a “band-aid” and said after two years it would no longer have the funds necessary to maintain round-the-clock service.

Hotline operator training requirements vary by state and can require hours of training. Alaska’s crisis center, for example, averages about 50 hours of “class time” and 30 hours of “shadow time,” Marchuk said.

Hannah Wesolowski, chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told CNN her organization is “really concerned” about the spike in demand once people learn about 988 in July and beyond, as “call centers are struggling to step up.” keep asking now.”

“Some states are well-equipped to respond, and others will rely heavily on national back-up centers — meaning not every caller is getting the value of a local response they desperately need,” she said.

A push to “close those gaps”

Lifeline Executive Director and Vibrant Executive Vice President of National Networks John Draper acknowledged to CNN that the challenge at 988 is to provide resources to crisis centers, which he said have been “funded for years “ would be operated.

And he acknowledged that not every center will have the required staff by July, calling it a “long-term build-up process.”

Vibrant’s “most intense focus right now” is supporting national backup call centers so that by July they can “fill the gaps where crisis services are insufficient to respond on the ground,” Draper said.

Palmieri told CNN that it will also take time to build up the capacity of the national backup centers, saying they are currently comparable to the capacity of local call centers.

But according to Wesolowski, “ideally, we want to answer those calls locally.”

“Because it’s just a local call center that a person can connect to resources within their community and dispatch emergency services when needed,” she said.

And without states and localities building local call center capacity, “we’re really in a tough spot,” Wesolowski warned.

“The crisis system that we want to build is coming together quickly, but a lot more work needs to be done,” Wesolowski said. “We are in a better place than we were a few months ago and the system is improving every day. But that will be a lot of work.”

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.)

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https://whdh.com/news/mental-health-groups-express-concern-about-readiness-of-new-suicide-prevention-hotline/ Mental health groups express concern over readiness of new suicide prevention hotline – Boston News, Weather, Sports

Nate Jones

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