August calls from Missouri to new 988 crisis hotline up 34% from last year • Missouri Independent


A revamped national hotline designed to help people in a mental health crisis saw a 34% year-over-year increase in calls from Missouri in August.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitioned statewide on July 16 to the new three-digit 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which aims to support callers in moments of crisis and connect them to mental health resources at a time when mental health issues have been on the rise . especially among young adults.

In August, the 988 hotline received 3,770 calls from Missouri, of which 3,461, or 92%, were answered, according to the state’s Department of Mental Health. That month, which includes the first full month of data since the three-digit number was introduced, also saw 756 SMS and 807 chats from Missouri.

Missouri’s 988 hotline is operated by seven providers who previously reported an immediate increase in calls in the first few weeks of hotline migration. When lines from these centers are busy, calls are routed to the national call center, said Debra Walker, a spokeswoman for the department.

The hotline does not yet have geolocation services that would route a caller to the nearest call center based on their location like 911 does. Calls are currently routed to the nearest call center based on a caller’s area code.

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The increase in calls is evidence that Missouri should continue to fund the hotline long-term, said Rep. Patty Lewis, a Kansas City Democrat who serves on the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee passed a mental health care law.

“We see in every corner — country, city, Democrat, Republican — that there is a mental health crisis in our state,” Lewis said, later adding, “We must continue to support this.” “

While over $30 million in state and federal funding was assigned to implementing the hotline in Missourithe state has yet to pass legislation approved by Congress to add a monthly fee to phone bills to permanently fund the hotline and crisis services – similar to how 911 call centers are funded.

So far, at least four states have enacted such fees, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illnesswith the highest rate taking effect next year at $0.40 per line in Washington.

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It remains to be seen if the Missouri legislature will pursue that option in January when the annual legislation begins.

Senator Lincoln Hough, a Springfield Republican who sponsored an invoice to print the 988 hotline number on the student ID cardsaid he ultimately wants to make sure the resources are there when callers need help.

“I’d like to see what it’s really going to cost on the back end to make sure these services are in place,” said Hough, who is expected to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee next year, “and then come up with the funding mechanism.”

That The increase in calls in Missouri reflects the gains achieved nationwide, with 152,000 more hotline contacts, or a 45% increase in total volume, in August 2022 compared to August 2021, according to figures released earlier this month by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The hotline recorded a total of 361,140 calls, chats and SMS in August.

While calls have increased, the average wait time and abandonment rate in Missouri have declined, Walker said.

The average speed to answer a call in Missouri after the hotline auto-greeting is 33 seconds faster than a year ago — down from 1 minute and 3 seconds in 2021 to 30 seconds, according to state figures.

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“Missouri has significantly improved how quickly calls are answered,” Walker said.

The rate at which calls in Missouri are abandoned before an adviser can answer has fallen 10%, from 18% in 2021 to 8% in 2022, according to state figures. As of August last year, Missouri call centers recorded 543 abandoned calls Calls compared to 290 in August this year.

Calls can be dropped for a variety of reasons such as: B. when a person decides to end the call or when the call is dropped due to technical issues.

Nationwide, the average response speed to calls, chats and texts also fell to 42 seconds from 2 minutes and 30 seconds last year. according to HHSwith 43,092 or 12% of all contacts abandoned in August.

A Previously found New York Times analysis that around 18% of the 1 million calls to the hotline in the first half of the year were abandoned.



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