Federal legislation in 2020 prompted the Federal Communications Commission to designate a three-digit phone number to serve as a suicide and mental health crisis prevention line. The number “988” officially replaced the 11-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on July 16.
“Often people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts, substance abuse or a mental health crisis go without the support and care they need,” Bailey said. “A lot of times it may be because of stigma and fear of access, or they don’t know how to access and how to navigate the system, which can be overwhelming.”
Billy was joined by MDMH Chief of Staff Katie Storr at the Hilton Garden Inn on Monday to talk to the Starkville Rotary Club about starting suicide and crisis 988, how it works and what community mental health services are available.
Although 988 is the new three-digit code, the original (800) 273-8255 still works. Lifeline’s parent organization is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and it outlines three basic guidelines for MDMH care: someone to talk to, someone to respond to, and a place to go.
When someone in need of help reaches through 988, that initial contact is made through crisis lines to give the person someone to talk to. Mississippi has two Lifeline centers – one in Jackson and one in Columbus.
Store said calls are routed to crisis centers based on the phone’s area code, not geographic location. If someone with area code 662 calls the center but no longer lives in the state, they will still be directed to the Mississippi Crisis Center.
“The reason[calls are routed by area code]is that if you reach out to a Crisis Call Center in Mississippi, they are familiar with the resources and support here in the state,” Storr said. “Sometimes when a counselor is on the phone, that person’s crisis might be because they can’t get diapers for their kids, they’re having a behavior crisis because of that and they might have some other things going on. That crisis counselor will have the resources to tell that person where they should go. looking into it.”
People in crisis can text 988 or go online at 988lifeline.org to chat with someone. Chat and text are not routed by area code yet.
Bailey said that if a person facing a mental health crisis needs additional care beyond a person to talk to on the phone, all 82 counties in the state have mobile crisis teams ready to respond with guidance and support.
Licensed Therapists, Peer Support Workers, and Community Support Workers can meet with this person wherever they are or at a specific location. Those who respond work with law enforcement to ensure that a person who is going through a mental health crisis is not placed in prison or another restrictive environment.
If a crisis facility is needed, the response teams will assist the person who needs it in a crisis stabilization unit.
“In Mississippi, we now have 184 crisis stabilization beds,” Bailey said. “We had 3,108 people served in that household last year. The huge result of this is crisis stabilization with an average length of stay of about 12 days. The whole purpose of going to a crisis stabilization unit is to avoid the need for a higher level of care, to avoid the need to go “Into a government hospital bed. Last year, 91 percent of people who served in a crisis stabilization unit were converted from a government hospital bed, and that’s what you want. You want government hospital beds that are for those who need them most and are the absolute last resort.”
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