988 helpline has made significant impact since launch last year

Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 8:11 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - According to the Louisiana Department of Health, suicide is the 14th leading cause of death in the state.

Back in 2022, the 988 helpline was established as an easier number to get in contact with help when in a behavioral crisis.

State Office of Behavioral Health has partnered with call centers in Bossier City and New Orleans to answer 988 calls.

Tanya McGee, executive director for the Imperial Calcasieu Human Service Authority, said having an easier number makes a difference.

“Most folks who are in a medical crisis know to dial 911, and when you’re in a behavioral health crisis to remember a 1-800 really long number when you’re in the middle of that crisis is difficult, so the federal government pushed through SAMHSA, which is substance abuse and mental health services administration launched 988, which is much easier to remember when you are in the middle of a behavioral crisis,” McGee said.

Since 988 was established, there has been a significant uptick in calls.

“Since the one-year implementation of 988, we have seen over 30,00 calls coming in and being handled, and in addition to that they have seen an actual 46 percent increase in the number of calls coming in from the previous year,” McGee said.

Dr. Kevin Yaudes, McNeese associate professor with the Department of Psychology and Counseling said along with a switch in phone number, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration implemented more resources.

“One of the changes from switching to the 800 number to 988 is that SAMHSA expanded the focus of the hotline from just suicidality to mental health concerns and substance use concerns as well,” Yaudes said.

The helpline offers specific support to Veterans, Spanish speakers, LGBTQ+ youth, and deaf people.

“If you are experiencing some type of struggle, but maybe not in crisis, make the phone call, call 988, and talk to a trained crisis counselor,” Yaudes said.

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