GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mental health organizations in West Michigan are preparing for the official rollout of the new 988 number nationwide.
The three digits will provide a shortened way to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Christy Buck, the executive director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, said the new number will simplify getting help in a crisis.
“This is probably one of the most preventative tools used for specifically suicide,” Buck said. “Research has shown that keeping someone on the phone for even a minimum of five minutes can reduce that thought that they have to take their life right then.”
The number is scheduled to be rolled out nationally beginning on July 16 but Michigan is one of many states that have not specifically allocated funding to the organizations that will be taking those calls for the service. Some carriers have already activated the new number.
“I’m pretty optimistic that it will all turn out great and it will be funded. I know that everyone knows the importance of a phone number when it goes from a lot of digits to 988,” Buck said.
Andrew Boekestein is a strategic projects manager with Network 180, where calls are typically routed to in Kent County.
“We haven’t noticed a huge uptick yet but we think that’s because there hasn’t been a huge focus, to push to do that in the community, to explain the new system and the official ‘go live’ hasn’t arrived yet,” Boekestein said.
While some organizations that handle calls are concerned they won’t have enough staffing or funding and will have to route more calls out of the area, Network 180 says its prepared.
“In Kent County it’s fortunate in that we have a lot of resources to help people in need,” Boekestein said. “The rollout of this new number and crisis system is not imposing a lot of new services that Kent County didn’t already have.”
Mental health advocates believe people in a mental health crisis will feel more comfortable calling 988 instead of 911.
“988 will be a listening line and it is a line where … the goal is to reduce the person’s stress at that moment and also to help them make good decisions,” Buck said.
If you are struggling and need someone to talk to you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255.