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New 988 mental health and suicide hotline goes live in Idaho today


BOISE (Idaho Capital Sun) – Beginning Saturday, July 16, Idahoans may dial 988 to call the new mental health and suicide prevention hotline that is going live across the country.

The idea behind the new hotline is similar to 911. It offers an easy-to-remember, three-digit number to dial for anyone in a mental health crisis 24 hours a day. The difference is that the calls won’t go to law enforcement; calls will be answered by a network of more than 200 trained crisis call centers. Callers with an Idaho area code will be routed to the Idaho Crisis and Suicide hotline, 988 project manager Nicole Coleman said.

The 988 hotline replaces and consolidates other state and national suicide prevention and mental health hotlines into one short number for callers all across the United States.

During a meeting of the Idaho Council of Indian Affairs last week, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen encouraged everyone to begin memorizing 988 as the new number to call in a mental health emergency.

What happens when you call the 988 mental health hotline?

On the hotline, experts will be available to help intervene in a crisis, support and de-escalate the caller or refer the caller to an array of local services.

“988 is the new national suicide and crisis lifeline. It will be the 911 equivalent for behavioral health crises and an integral part of Idaho’s crisis care continuum,” Coleman said in a written statement. “The 988 partnership is committed to empathetic and culturally responsive services based on best practices. This continuum of care includes, but isn’t limited to, crisis de-escalation over the phone, appropriate crisis mobile response, behavioral health service linkage, and crisis follow-up.”

The new 988 hotline launches in Idaho this weekend following about two years of groundwork from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Division of Behavioral Health, along with support from Medicaid and public health districts, Coleman said.

New hotline receives Idaho’s elected officials’ support

This year, the hotline received an additional $4.4 million in one-time state funding approved by the Idaho Legislature from Gov. Brad Little’s behavioral health care plan, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Greg Stahl said.

During the 2021 legislative session, the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate voted to adopt House Concurrent Resolution 11, a resolution that signals the Legislature’s support and promotion for the 988 hotline. In the resolution, Idaho legislators noted that Idaho’s suicide rate was 41% higher than the national average as of 2019 and that the state has a shortage of mental health and primary care providers.

“988 will improve access to mental health support for all Idahoans, especially those in rural communities with few health care providers; and … promotion of 988 will help raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention and decrease stigma associated with asking for help,” the resolution states.

In Congress, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, was one of the co-sponsors of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, which required the Federal Communications Commission to designate 988 as the universal sucide prevention and mental helath crisis hotline. Former President Donald J. Trump signed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 into law that same year.

Crapo is scheduled to participate in a news conference on Saturday in Twin Falls to promote the new 988 hotline.

“Ensuring everyone knows where to turn for help to prevent suicide and receive crisis intervention has been one of my top priorities,” Crapo said in a written statement. “On July 16, all Americans will have access to this easy-to-remember, 3-digit phone number, and we will be able to better connect people in crisis with life-saving resources.”

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