State prepares for ‘911 for mental health’ hotline


ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – Inside the office of Chad’s Coalition, Marine McCord works to raise awareness and prevention of depression and suicide. It’s a passion born out of tragedy after her son Chad took his own life at the age of 18.

“I think most parents are like myself and my husband and think ‘well it’s never going to happen in our family’, but it did,” said Marine McCord.

There are resources available for parents and young people, but soon, one resource, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, is going to get more accessible.

“One number for all of your behavioral health needs,” explains Bart Andrews, the chief clinical officer for Behavior Health Response located in St. Louis City.

That number will soon be just three digits – 988. The three digit helpline will launch nationwide on July 1.

BHR staffers will be among those picking up the phone. Currently they provide 24/7 crisis support and telephone counseling, answering thousands of calls a month. The switch to the three digit number is expect to grow the number of callers exponentially.

“We know that when you make it easier for people to call the crisis line, more people are going to call. So we want to make sure we can answer all the calls that are going to come in,” said Andrews.

In Missouri, they’ve already been working to increase staffing. A recent report from the New York Times shows some states are not prepared for the switch and funding is an issue.

“Missouri’s done a really good job,” said Andrews.

Governor Mike Parson’s proposed budget allocates $26 million for the 988 program according to Andrews. If approved, he believes it will go a long way in ensuring there is help when someone in crisis needs it.

If you, or someone you know needs help, the number to call right now for Suicide Prevent Lifeline is 800-273-8255.

Copyright 2022 KMOV. All rights reserved.