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988 mental health crisis line sees more than 5,000 calls in 1st month

Missouri health centers received about 1,000 calls more than average in the first month of the new mental health crisis line.

ST. LOUIS — It’s been a little over a month since the Mental Health Crisis Hotline took on a new number, 988.

Staff at crisis call centers said they’ve seen a big increase in calls and new callers seeking help.

In the first month of the new mental health crisis line 988 in Missouri, call centers received more than 5,000 calls, that’s roughly 1,000 more than their typical call volume. Lauren Moyer with Compass Health said part of that is because it’s an easier number to remember.

“When someone truly is in that crisis moment, everything that we would normally do on a daily basis, like keeping appointments or knowing what day and what time it is, that kind of goes out the window in the moment of a crisis,” Moyer said.

With 988, they’re also reducing the number of mental-health-related incidents that law enforcement needs to respond to.

“Only 2% of the calls, we're still involving law enforcement. And so I do feel like that might be able to even decrease less than 2% as we start to build up our mobile crisis response and our mobile crisis staffing,” Moyer said. 

Moyer said about 90% of the calls can be resolved over the phone but there’s another 10% that need more.

That’s where 10 behavioral crisis centers come in, and eight more will be in place later this year.

“So we engage mobile crisis. But let's say that's not enough, that they actually need a physical location to go, that is an alternative to jail an alternative to the hospital setting. That's where these behavioral health crisis centers come in,” Moyer said.

She said they’re also working on a new program in the City of St. Louis and in Gasconade County. The 988 call centers will actually be connected to 911 dispatch centers so that if someone calls 911 and the mental health professionals can better handle the issue, the call can be redirected right over to 988.

“So I do feel like from those pilots, that will take off in the next 30, 60, 90 days, we're going to be able to educate the rest of the Missouri 911 Advisory Board, as well as some of those other 911 dispatching offices that are wanting this,” Moyer said.

Call centers are open 24/7 and anyone who is struggling or knows someone who is can call 988.

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