Group says National Suicide Hotline, 988, is making a big difference in the Heartland

988 one year later.
Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 6:17 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 17, 2023 at 6:18 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - It’s been one year since the National Suicide Hotline switched to 988 and thousands of people here in Missouri have reached out for help using this three-digit number.

Chief Protocol Officer for Behavioral Health Response Doctor Bart Andrews says people are now getting their calls answered in 20 seconds or less thanks to the 988 number.

The St. Louis-based organization helps answer 988 calls made in parts of Missouri.

“We’re handling about 4,500 calls a month on 9-8-8, we’re answering 94 percent of those,” Andrews said.

Leaders from the Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau say 988 gives people a much-needed option if they’re facing a mental health crisis.

“Crisis doesn’t happen during bank hours, it happens at any point in time and we need to have people ready to respond 24/7,” said Emergency Services Supervisor for the Community Counseling Center Shawni Miller.

The organization has been on the front lines, battling mental health issues in the Heartland.

Miller says 988 is often the first step is getting help.

“We have our mobile crisis responders, so now we can not only see individuals in our office, but we can see them in the community, we can see them in their home--wherever they’re really needing that additional support,” Miller said. “So then somebody can go and respond and then they have somewhere to go which would be the Behavioral Health Crisis Center.”

She added that they’ve been making sure people know 9-8-8 is one of the resources there for them, if they need it.

“We’re trying to get the word out as much as possible,” Miller said. “Anytime somebody comes into our office, we try to let them know about 9-8-8. We let them know about mobile crisis--you know now we can come to you and that we can be dispatched through 9-8-8.”

And for Dr. Andrews, the next steps are making sure 988 gets better and better.

“The next steps are to make sure that we continue to improve our answer rate,” Dr. Andrews said. “We’d actually like to get that answer rate even higher than it is now--we want to make sure we get more mobile outreach to folks, better care coordination and long term, we want to make sure all those systems are innovative and working together much better.”

988 is more than a crisis phone line. It also includes a text option where a professional will respond to you if you text that number.