FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new way to get help for mental health issues rolls out nationwide on Saturday.
The 988 mental health crisis hotline was created by the federal government and developed state-by-state to provide an easier and universal way for people to get the assistance they need.
That was the message Thursday as the official roll-out of the 988 hotline neared.
Announced by Dr. Dan Rusyniak, secretary of the state’s Family and Social Services Administration, the hotline is scheduled to go live Saturday nationwide.
Funded so far by a $50 million grant from the federal government, it’s expected to be a whole new way to address the mental health crisis.
Saturday, it’s an initial phone call to 988 with access to crisis mental health teams. Someday, 5 to 10 years down the road, it will involve regional mental health crisis centers.
What it might look like in Fort Wayne and Allen County is tied to local, state and federally funded grants, one of them going to Courageous Healing Inc.
Located at 2013 S. Anthony Blvd., Courageous Healing was founded by Janell and Aaron Lane. Their organization is one of 37 providers statewide and one of three locally to receive a portion of the federal grant money allotted.
Courageous Healing’s grant of about $375,000 will help the organization expand staff and services for their holistic-based, culturally-centered approached that Janell Lane called “novel.”
Traumatized clients find a safe space with treatment that is more therapeutic and more spa-like than a typical clinic, Janell Lane said.
Courageous Healing focuses on the Fort Wayne’s southeast side, employing therapists of color who can relate better to many of their clients. Some of this unique treatment includes massage and relaxation rooms and “disrupts expectations of what mental health counseling looks like,” Lane said.
In Allen County, two other organizations received grants to help close the gap on mental health services.
One is the Allen County Drug & Alcohol Consortium, which plans to create a center that will “build a physical drop-in center and diverse alliance for LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults,” according to a media release.
That grant is nearly $500,000.
Amani Family Services, Inc. received $250,000 to continue providing clinical mental health and substance use services for immigrants and refugees.
Even though 988’s official roll out is Saturday, Hoosiers can access services right now by calling that number, according to the federal government. The advantage to the 3-digit number is that it will be easier to remember than other hotlines that deal with mental illness, according to officials.
The state has three call centers in Gary, Muncie and Lafayette, but is expanding to five centers, according to Dr. Chris Drapeau, the state’s Department of Mental Health executive director of Prevention, Suicide Prevention and Crisis Response who spoke at the announcement.
And people can still call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255. Call centers for that hotline are also expanding, officials said.
With more call centers and a national back-up system, it’s the state’s hope the response rate will be better than three out of four calls, Drapeau said. The state is also working with local 911 centers that typically get suicide phone calls and many more calls for mental health situations.
That’s already happening in Allen County.
“The roll out of 988 to replace the previous (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) won’t have a lot of impact on our center,” David Bubb, executive director of Allen County’s 911 Dispatch Center said. “I’m working with mental health and public safety professionals from around the state to establish protocols and procedures for agencies to use as guidelines to determine if a person calling 911 may be better served if transferred to 988 to receive the services they need,
Currently, the Fort Wayne Police Department gets more than 2,000 phone calls annually for suicide threats and attempted suicides, according to data provided by the FWPD for the years 2018 through 2021. Last year, the calls were more than 2,200.
Call volume data from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline indicates there were 3,113 calls in 2017, the latest data available on its website. Of those, 991 came from military veterans and 10 were from Spanish speaking individuals.
Another helpline, 211 will be a part of the 988 and 911 models.
Gil Peri, president of Riley Children’s Health addressed the growing need for mental health services for the young. Without giving numbers, Peri said the state’s overall suicide rate is higher than most states and the growing pediatric mental health crisis was exacerbated by the pandemic.
A “pyramid of solutions” will start with schools, YMCAs and other community-based organizations, Peri said.
Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn said typically children have more crises when they are in school and with children going back to school when the pandemic eased, those crises grew.
Additionally, the youth suicide rate started “well before the pandemic,” with a suicide rate for girls 14-16 increasing greater than other ages.
“It’s hard to piece together why it’s happening,” Hulvershorn said, but some blame could be placed on social media.
Although suicide prevention is apparently the first thrust of this monumental state effort to help those in a state of mental health crisis, the initiatives will grow, officials said.
“Too many Hoosiers need care,” in a state that has “too few providers and even fewer for children in need,” Rusyniak said. “The system is far too fragmented.”
With that the state is taking an “all hands on deck approach in addressing mental health in our state,” said Rusyniak, who projected a $100 million investment in mental health and addiction.
That should increase access to care and expand the mental health work force and infrastructure, officials said.