Mental health hotline calls in southwest Missouri have increased by 35%

Since its launch in July, people are calling 988 if they are struggling with a mental health emergency.
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 4:17 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Since its launch in July, people are calling 988 if they are struggling with a mental health emergency.

Previously you would have to call an 800 number, which was long and difficult to memorize. Since that number was simplified, operators have seen more calls from people needing help.

“We have been answering phones as usual, and we have seen an increase in calls,” said Natasha Corkin, Director of crisis services at Burrell Behavioral Health. “The first week was a larger increase with a 50% increase in calls, and then the second week it went down a little bit to the 40% range, then it’s been staying steady about 30 to 35% since.”

The Southwest Missouri center answered 491 calls in July. Operators have been able to keep up with the increased call volume. Most calls are answered in 8 seconds. The call center uses a headset call system that allows for quicker connection, making it possible to manage a higher call volume.

“We don’t rely on the regular desk phone, you know, pick up an answer anymore,” said Corkin. “It’s all headset based, and it’s a computer-based phone system which allows for quicker switches between calls.”

Leaders believe that the simplified number makes help more accessible and allows more people to reach out.

“I think the 988 rollout here in Missouri has been a success,” said Corkin. “The crisis hotline centers here in Missouri have worked very hard with the (Missouri) Department of Mental Health and making sure that we are covering the need of the Missouri citizens and community. We think with our increasing calls, the light that has been shining on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has really paid off in providing more of a cohesive crisis service for our community.”

988 is more than a suicide hotline operators are trained to help with any mental health crisis. Some of the reasons people have called were to request help for a friend or relative and to understand better what 988 is. Of the 491 calls received from July 27, 2022 to Aug. 31, 2022, 17% were suicidal, 31% had an acute psychiatric situation, 14% were other issues like housing or substance abuse, and 39% were seeking more information.

You can also text 988 if you don’t need immediate care. Burrell is not involved in the texting service. DeafLEAD, a Missouri non-profit, responded to 700 people’s messages last month.

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