New 988 Suicide And Mental Health Hotline Now Live In Idaho
Starting today, residents of Idaho can dial '988' to call a new mental health and suicide prevention hotline that is being launched across the country.
The idea with this new hotline is similar to 911. The hotline offers an easy to remember phone number that is three-digits and can be reached 24 hours a day. The difference here is that the calls will not go to law enforcement, but will instead be answered by a community of more than 200 trained crisis call centers.
988 Project Manager Nicole Coleman says that callers with an Idaho area code will be routed to the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline. So, despite this being a national program, you will be reaching out to trained assistants locally.
This new 988 hotline will be replacing and consolidating other state and national suicide prevention and mental health hotlines into one easy to remember short number for callers across the country.
While appearing at a meeting of the Idaho Council of Indian Affairs last week, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen has already begun encouraging citizens to start memorizing '988' as the new number in call in case of a mental emergency.
Experts on the 988 hotline will be available to help intervene during a crisis, support, and de-escalate the caller and will be able to refer the caller to several local services.
In a written statement, Coleman said, "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' crisis care continuum. 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."
According to Coleman, Idaho's new 988 hotline comes after roughly 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.
The hotline has received $4.4 million in a one-time state funded payment approved by the Idaho Legislature from Governor Brad Little's behavioral health care plan, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Greg Stahl added.
During last year's legislative session, Idaho's House of Representatives and Senate voted to adopt House Concurrent Resolution 11, which is a resolution that shows the Legislature's support and promotion for this 988 hotline. Within the resolution, Idaho legislators note that Idaho's suicide rate was reportedly 41% higher than the country's national average as of 2019. It also showed that the state had a shortage of mental health and primary care providers.
The resolution states, "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."
Idaho Senator Mike Crapo was one of the co-sponsors of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 which required the FCC to designate 988 as the universal suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. Former President Trump signed the act into law that same year.
In a written statement, Crapo said, "Ensuring everyone knows where to turn for help to prevent suicide and receive crisis intervention has been one of my top priorities. Only 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."
Read more about Idaho's investment in mental health below.