Like 9-1-1 is used for police, fire and medical emergencies, Idahoans experiencing behavioral health crises soon will be able to call 9-8-8 to seek help.
In 2020, Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, creating a new nationwide behavioral health crisis and suicide prevention dialing code. The new hotline, reached by dialing or texting 9-8-8, is scheduled to launch July 16.
“This is a big step forward in our crisis response system in the state,” Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, told the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs on Wednesday.
Currently Idahoans seeking help with a behavioral health crisis can call the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255. The new system will incorporate Idaho’s hotline, but “it’ll be much broader than that,” Jeppesen said.
At the state level, the 9-8-8 calls will be answered by local organizations that partner with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. That includes the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline, a program run by health services nonprofit Jannus.
Meanwhile, development of the new crisis line is part of a broader effort at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to expand mental health response services.
Crisis response will include deescalation over the phone but also mobile response teams that will connect with a caller where the crisis is taking place and facilitate additional services, Jeppesen said. While Idaho already has mobile response teams, the department will provide statewide coverage, he said.
“Over time we’ll grow that mobile response capability, so just like you would call and expect any other first responder, that we would have a first responder on the mental health side that could respond to those emergencies,” Jeppesen said.
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