Nationwide 988 mental health crisis number starts in Oklahoma on Friday

June 30, 2022

ENID, Okla. — Oklahomans in mental health crisis will have a new resource to turn to starting Friday, July 1, with the launch of the national 988 three-digit phone number.

The state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department is launching the new hotline to address and de-escalate mental health crises as they occur, department spokesperson Jeff Dismukes told Enid Rotarians on Monday.

The 988 campaign is a national number to replace the suicide prevention hotline. Each state is directing its own services, resources and campaign. The new system will include call centers, resource centers and response teams across the state once it is fully implemented.

Oklahoma has a high rate of suicides and mental health issues. Twenty percent of Oklahomans live with mental illness. Four percent of Oklahomans have suicidal thoughts and 1 in 10 students report attempting suicide in the last 12 months.

“This is a change to a three-digit number, and it’s been in the works for several years now,” Dismukes said.

The state has selected Arizona-based Solari Crisis and Human Services to operate Oklahoma’s 988 call center. Also, Oklahoma has been one of the few states ready to begin with the call center on July 1, while other states have lagged behind.

“Moving to this 988 system is more than suicide prevention,” he said, describing the old hotline was primarily a crisis line people for experiencing suicide ideation. It’s also for any behavioral health reason, including anxiety and depression.

“We’re going to be able to do some dynamic things in the communities as we move through this process and really work with the types of community resources available,” he said.

“You will be able to talk to somebody who can help you right then,” he said. “It’s going to be somebody who is a mental health professional, pick up the phone and help you work through the problem.”

The majority of crisis calls are able to be triaged over the phone, but this will be something more.

“It will be an opportunity to engage with the family and lead them to services,” he said.

So, when someone calls 988, they will be immediately connected with a mental health professional to talk through what’s happening and get the resources the caller needs to help themselves or a loved one.

It’s expected that most times, the phone call will help the immediate problem. However, if more help is needed, the call center will send a mobile crisis team to assess the situation and intervene of necessary.

In the instance even more in-depth care is needed, transportation will be provided to an urgent care and crisis center.

Dismukes said that due to some delays in paperwork, the mobile crisis team part of the program won’t be available until later in the summer.

“We have a network of mobile crisis providers that have been selected around the state,” he said.

Dismukes said he believes this new system will help families better navigate the behavioral health system.

“This number and re-envisioning this beyond just a suicide prevention line, beyond just a crisis line and looking at this as an immediate resource will change the behavioral health system,” he said.

Solari Call Center also will be able to make appointments for people with treatment providers.

“They will be able to see somebody that day or the next day,” he said. “They will make sure that link occurs. We will be following up with our Solari team to make sure that appointment happens, and if not, why?

“It’s a more proactive way to start working through these problems we’ve been talking about forever,” he said.

Dismukes said as this system comes online, individuals or families who are living with mental health issues should begin planning ahead about how they will deal with a crisis when it occurs.

For information about the new system and resources available, go to 988oklahoma.com.

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