DES MOINES, Iowa – We are just days away from being able to dial three numbers to access a national mental health hotline. Starting Saturday, July 16, 9-8-8 will replace the existing 10-digit suicide prevention number.
Local advocates are hopeful it will change how we help people in crisis.
“It’s really going to be groundbreaking because for the first time we’re going to have a three-digit number that people who are in a behavioral health crisis can access,” Peggy Huppert, executive director of NAMI Iowa, said. “And they can immediately talk to someone who can help them, who’s trained to help them.”
Two existing organizations in Eastern Iowa will field the calls and text messages. Huppert said the goal is that the calls and texts be answered by an Iowan who knows local resources, but there’s concern that won’t happen due to current staffing shortages.
Congress dedicated some money to the new hotline, but much of the funding was left up to the states.
“If we want these calls and texts answered in a timely way by Iowans, then we have to be willing to pay for it,” Huppert said.
Huppert says all calls will be answered, call centers in other states will help fill the gaps.
The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255 for anyone who is struggling.