Dispatchers in the Ozarks say calls increasing to new mental health hotline

Published: Jul. 23, 2022 at 9:36 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It’s been one week since the 988 hotline replaced the former National Suicide Hotline. And dispatchers at Burrell Behavioral Health said their call volume has increased.

Nora Smith has been a crisis specialist at Burrell Behavioral Health for over 20 years and says the new 988 hotline is for anyone.

“You don’t have to be by yourself in the middle of the night. You’re not feeling well. You really don’t want to be alone,” said Smith. “Call that crisis line number.”

Smith said there are dispatchers ready to help at all times.

”It’s a crisis number, and they’ll be able to give you resources,” said Smith. “Share it, share it, let people know.”

Authorities said they want 988 to be like 911, but an automated message will be first, followed quickly by a dispatcher. However, you can text 988 as well, especially if you don’t need emergency services immediately.

Natasha Corkins, director of Southwest crisis services at Burrell Behavioral Health, said they want more awareness.

”Important so we can get people to kind of divert their calls from 911 if it’s not a medical emergency,” said Corkins.

Corkins said Burrell took over the 988 calls in the area and noted in the first week. They had over 100 calls, 50% more than the week leading up to the change. Burrell’s staff said they were more than ready for the increase in calls.

”We have been doing for a long time, Burrell has had a crisis line for 30 years, and 988, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, has been around since 2005,” said Corkins.

Corkins said the 988 hotline replaces the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, but Smith tells us the calls are the same.

”You only spend like 10 minutes on the phone with them,” said Smith. “But the fact of the matter that somebody picked up that phone and listened to them is what their heart’s desire was for that moment.“

Smith said to spread this number to anyone who needs it.

”They can reach out and talk to people when they’re very lonely and be reminded that yes, you do matter on this planet, and we want you to be around for a while,” said Smith.

Corkins said if you need help for an emergency during a call, they will dispatch someone to help you.

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