988 crisis lifeline marks 2nd anniversary of service

988 Lifeline news graphic
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(Missouri News Service – Mark Richardson) – The country’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline system turns two years old this month and a new report outlined Missouri’s implementation, calling for more investment.

The report from the mental health advocacy nonprofit Inseparable found Missouri needs about 50 mobile response teams, which dispatch a mental health professional and often a peer counselor instead of police.

Angela Kimball, chief advocacy officer for Inseparable, said people can now call 988 instead of 911 for anything affecting their mental health. “We know that with the right approach, people can get on the path to recovery,” Kimball asserted. “We can avoid the expense, the trauma of emergency departments, of jails, of law enforcement involvement, and really give people help when they need it most.”

The 988 system in Missouri has an in-state answer rate of 94% of calls, which exceeds Inseparable’s goal of 90% or higher. The report also found the state needs to fund 337 crisis-receiving chairs and 286 short-term crisis residential beds.

In a 2022 survey, half of adults nationwide said someone in their family had experienced a severe mental health crisis. Before there was a 988 system, police often had to respond to crises.

Kimball stressed the 988 system is designed to provide more than just someone to talk with. “We include data collection, annual legislative reporting, system coordination, ensuring that there’s coordination between 988 and 911,” Kimball outlined. “Because the goal is to try and reduce reliance on 911 for mental health emergencies.”

The Inseparable report called for policies to expand Missouri’s 988 call center capacity, increase the availability of mobile response units, create more crisis stabilization centers, and create stable funding mechanisms to sustain the system.

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