The idea behind 988 Mental Health Lifeline is simple.
“It shouldn’t be that hard to find mental health support. We need to make it easier for people,” said Rachel Bhagwat, director of policy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Chicago, explaining the concept behind the three-digit code.
As universal as it is to dial 911 in an emergency, starting July 16, anyone facing a nationwide mental health crisis will be able to dial 988 for direct access to a trained counselor at within the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“When 988 rolls out on July 16, people will be able to call, text or chat with 988 and on the other end of the line there will be someone who is a trained mental health professional, who could be a paid staff member or a volunteer,” Bhagwat said.
Someone calling from DuPage County, for example, would be linked to a crisis center operated by the DuPage County Health Department, staffed with trained counselors.
The DuPage County Health Department’s Behavioral Health Crisis System handled 44,962 calls last year, compared to 42,856 in 2020 and 34,722 calls in 2019.
“We are already one of the busiest call centers in the state and as expected this will drive more calls to us,” said Karen Ayala, executive director of the county health department. DuPage.
That’s why the health department is looking to hire more advisers to prepare for the rollout of 988.
“We know it’s better when it’s people who are not only trained, but who know the local resources very well. This is the best solution to respond to these crisis calls,” Ayala said.
In 2020, bipartisan legislation in Congress mandated the launch of the three-digit number to reach trained counselors who belong to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network, but left financial support for staff, phone lines, computer systems, and d other infrastructure to the States.
Some mental health professionals worry that states may not be ready to handle the expected flood of calls.
Most states have not allocated money for the service, with only Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and Washington adopting comprehensive funding plans. According to a report by Rand Corp. published last month, more than half of public health officials tasked with launching the 988 line said they felt unprepared and without funding for staff or infrastructure to manage the rollout.
The DuPage County Crisis Center is one of six Lifeline Crisis Centers (LCCs) in Illinois. The latest data shows Illinois ranks last when it comes to an in-state response, with just 19% of Illinois mental crisis calls answered by someone in the state.
“Illinois is a great state. We have a lot of people living here. If we really want people to be connected to local resources, we will need more than six centers,” Bhagwat said.
Bhagwat said the Path Crisis Center in Bloomington has been designated a statewide emergency center for 988 calls.
“This call center, I know, they have a very small team and they’re hiring over 100 positions in the coming months for the rollout,” Bhagwat said.
DuPage County councilors must meet specific educational criteria. For more information and to apply, click here — https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/dupagehealth?page=2