Calls to 988 Mental Health Crisis Line double in the last month

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:30 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It’s been just over a month since the 988 mental health crisis line launched.

In Missouri, calls have nearly doubled at many of the call centers across the state.

Behavioral Health Response (BHR) in St. Louis is one of the six crisis centers in Missouri.

Clinical Director Laura Coleman says the doubling in calls happened from June to July. BHR is seeing the same trend again, with another 50 percent increase this month.

“It’s just like 911 but you would call for any mental health need,” Coleman says.

In July, BHR answered 1,700 calls. So far in August, BHR has answered 1,000 calls.

If you call 988, the goal is that you’ll speak to someone at one of the centers in your region.

“You’ll have a clinician that is familiar with the community mental health centers or just counseling or whatever resources you might be needing,” Coleman says.

If all of the clinicians at those centers are already on calls, your call will go to one of the other centers across the state.

If all of those are taken, your call will get moved to a national call center.

However, Provident Behavioral Health in St. Louis also works as the backup center for Missouri. Provident associate director of crisis services Shelby Zurick Beasley says as the backup center, Provident takes any additional calls before those people get transferred out of the state.

“As the state backup center, we’ve seen that the local crisis centers in Missouri have been able to handle their call volume really well, which really goes to show how much effort, time and energy has been put into preparing for 988,” Zurick Beasley says.

Zurick Beasley says they’re anticipating a continued influx in the number of calls, which has led to crisis centers getting access to federal and state funding with the launch of 988.

“If they need to be able to meet the demands of the call volume, then we need more people to answer calls,” Zurick Beasley says.

News 4 asked what happens after someone makes that call.

Coleman says if someone is in danger, that’s when emergency services are included.

For other calls, BHR and other clinics in the region offer outreach to provide additional services moving forward.

“We could send someone to their home or meet them somewhere and do a more thorough assessment to see what type of services to get them into appointments at community mental health centers,” Coleman says.

Coleman says many agencies are able to get people in the next business day for those services.

The state expects 250,000 calls over the course of the year.

It is a crisis hotline but you do not need to be in crisis to call. You can remain anonymous when you call.

More information on the 988 hotline can be found here.