New crisis line for mental health emergencies begins July 16 at IDAHO

Updated 2 years ago on October 17, 2022

IDAHO - The new mental health crisis line, 988, is designed so that people facing a mental health crisis can call someone instead of calling 911.

In October 2020, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law, making 9-8-8 the national phone code. The new line launches July 16.

"If a person calls 9-8-8 starting Saturday, if they call with an Idaho area code, they are redirected to the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline," said Idaho Crisis and Suicide Director Lee Flynn.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Human Services, the purpose of the 988 service is to support anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, connecting people with the right resources and trained crisis service personnel. The new line is also designed to reduce the burden on local hospitals, law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Related: Is the country ready for the launch of the 9-8-8 suicide hotline next month?

In 2019, Idaho had the 11th highest suicide rate in the United States, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"The one message that really gets through to people and makes it really easy to understand and definitely easy to remember is that no matter what a person is going through, what type of crisis, they can really call 9-8-8 24/7," Flynn said.

The Idaho Division of Behavioral Health has assumed responsibility for implementing the 988 program in Idaho, and the 988 program is part of Idaho's continuum of crisis care.

"Idaho's crisis continuum of care includes, but is not limited to, telephone crisis de-escalation, appropriate mobile crisis response, behavioral services communication and crisis follow-up," the Idaho Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Related: Governor allocates $50 million to invest in behavioral health

In 2021, the Idaho legislature tried to introduce Senate Bill 1125, which would have provided a more sustainable method of funding to address mental health crisis care and suicide prevention, but the bill failed to pass.

"Everybody knows what 911 is, so eventually in this country and in Idaho the level of awareness will be the same as for 988, but, again, it will take time to get to that point," Flynn said.

Later in 2021, the FCC voted to approve the text messaging feature to 988, which will also launch in July 2022 along with the ability to make calls.

If you need help right now, call (208) 398-4357. The Idaho Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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