Louisiana prepared to launch 988 mental health crisis hotline this weekend

Louisiana is only a few days away from rolling out its new suicide prevention hotline number.
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 10:50 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana is only a few days away from rolling out its new suicide prevention hotline number.

Starting July 16, anyone dealing with a mental health crisis can dial or text 988 and get connected to a mental health professional.

Experts estimate this will impact thousands of lives across the state, and save just as many over the next few years.

However, some people have shared concerns about how states plan to maintain funding to keep the system up and running.

Dr. Chuck Browning, Chief Medical Officer of RI International, said states will have to step up to the plate.

“There is an unprecedented amount of funding opportunities to help support development of these systems, but those are often times one-time things,” Dr. Browning said.

Funds allocated from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan were used to get the 988-hotline operational, but it’s up to the states to make additional funds available.

In Louisiana, there’s a SAMHSA cooperative agreement to ensure the state has money to grow and expand the program. This includes training, hiring, recruiting, and developing staff members on crisis intervention.

Dr. Bill Schmitz, Jr., a clinical psychologist, believes the state will find multiple ways to make sure this program keeps moving.

“I think there’s a lot of different revenues that will carry this forward because it is an important resource,” Schmitz said.

He said other states are already looking at a few different options.

“I know some states are looking at implementing like how there’s a 911 fee on telecommunications, there might be a small 988 fund very similar,” Browning said.

Browning said the rollout won’t be perfect at first, but it will turn into something special over time.

“Just like in emergency medicine there has to be a lot of crosstalk, sharing in research, sharing in data, see what’s working and not working, to develop standards like the ones we have nationally for our emergency help services,” Browning said.

If you are experiencing a mental health-related or suicidal crisis before 988 becomes operational, you can dial 1-800-273-8255.

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