New mental health emergency crisis line goes into effect July 16

To simplify calling for help, last year Congress passed – and the president has now signed - a bill to set aside what will be a new three-digit suicide prevention hotline – 988. It is supposed to launch in July of next year.
Posted at 2:34 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 18:28:03-04

IDAHO — The new mental health emergency crisis line, 988 is meant to give those facing a mental health crisis someone to call, rather than calling 911.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was signed into law in October of 2020, creating 9-8-8 as the national dialing code. The new line launches , launches July 16.

“If a person calls 9-8-8 starting on Saturday, if they’re calling with an Idaho area code, they will be routed to Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline," Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline Director Lee Flinn said.

The goal of 988 is to provide support to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, connect people with the correct resources and trained crisis personnel according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Having the new line also looks to reduce the strain on local hospitals, law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

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

In 2019, Idaho had the 11th highest suicide rate in the U.S. according to the Department of Health and Welfare.

“With that unified message, that will really get through to people and make it really easy to understand and definitely easy to remember that no matter what a person is going through, what type of crisis that they really are able to call 9-8-8 24/7,” Flinn said.

The Idaho Division of Behavioral Health has taken charge of the 988 implementations in Idaho and 988 is part of Idaho’s crisis continuum of care.

“Idaho’s crisis continuum of care will include but is not limited to, crisis de-escalation over the phone, appropriate crisis mobile response, behavioral health service linkage, and crisis follow-up,” according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Related: Governor highlights $50M investment in behavioral health

In 2021, the Idaho legislature tried to introduce Senate Bill 1125 which looked to give a more sustainable method of funding to address mental health crisis care and suicide prevention, but the bill did not pass.

“Everybody knows what 911 is and so eventually in this country and in Idaho, the awareness level will be the same for 988 but again its going to take time to really get to that point,” Flinn said.

Later in the year, 2021 the FCC voted to approve text-to-988 which will also go live in July 2022 along with the ability to call.

If you need help now, call (208) 398-4357. Idaho’s crisis line is open 24/7.