Linn County Mental Health Access Center appears on Feb. 24, 2021. It is one of the seven outputs for the mentally ill. (Gazette)

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number will be cut to three numbers – 988 – from July 16, an important step in making treatment easier but showing opportunities in rural areas, Iowa experts say.

“It’s very difficult, and that’s why it’s very difficult because it’s a chance for someone to call a three-digit number and get immediate help from a knowledgeable professional who can provide a problem solution by phone or text, which doesn’t happen. If you call 911,” said Peggy Huppert, chief executive officer. National Alliance of Mental Illness Iowa.

Call 988

In order to change the three-digit number, Iowa with 319 or 515 must dial all 10 numbers when making other calls.

When a person with an Iowa regional code calls or sends 988 text messages, the call may be answered by an employee of Foundation 2, Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit, or CommUnity Crisis Services, a non-profit from Iowa City. All of them use legal advisers and have been working with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline since its inception in the 1970s.

“Finally, when you make a phone call, I will make direct contact with a compassionate counselor and available to a telephone counselor who can work with the caller to help them and their needs,” said Drew Martel, director of crisis services for Foundation 2.

The government has set a target of responding to all 988 calls and text within 30 seconds, with 90 percent of the response coming from Iowans. If Iowan is unable to respond to a call or call within 30 seconds, he will move to a warehouse in another part of the country, according to Huppert.

Many of the phones offered to the suicide prevention program can be phased out over the phone, says Martel, often by sending or suggesting that they be taken care of again.

“Most of the work is down the phone, helping the person, listening to them, trying to understand their needs, and providing direct support,” Martel said. “In fact, some people call and don’t want anything to do with it. They want to talk to a counselor and then they want to deal with their day and life. Some people require a referral or service to continue care, such as the proliferation of phones. ”

Opportunities in the ministry

Sarah Nelson, senior director at CommUnity Crisis Services, said times when someone needs more help than they can provide over the phone are options – but it varies from state to state.

Most of the sections deal with a hands-on approach to problem-solving, which means that well-trained psychiatrists are available to respond individually. But there are 11 non-crisis groups – Kossuth, Winnebago, Worth, Adair, Adams, Union, Taylor, Henry, Van Buren, Des Moines and Lee – according to Iowa’s Area Education Agencies page.

Seven counties – Linn, Johnson, Black Hawk, Polk, Dallas, Wapello and Clarke – have access to the hospital, according to the Iowa health department. A place of residence is a place where a person in need can go for immediate medical attention when they do not need medical treatment.

Ideally, every state in Iowa should have a handicraft team and access point, according to Huppert.

“I do not know what will happen. It’s a concern, “he said. “There is a huge difference in practice and in practice, depending on where you live in government. In my opinion, that’s the problem, because it shouldn’t have anything you live in the state. If you call 988 and the person you are talking to sees that you need to respond individually, then there should be a personal response.

Sometimes police are able to answer 988 calls, but this is only a matter of risk, according to Nelson.

“It comes to the level of compliance or not … so just because the phone problem does not exist does not mean that enforcement will be appropriate. It just means that, unfortunately, they do not have access to outgoing counselors,” Nelson said.

Instead, the telephone counselor at the event will advise other local helpers or work with the callers to determine their support methods.

“We talk to them, what help do you have? Is there anyone you can find who can come and visit you this evening?

Nelson said he believes Iowa is moving in the right direction with psychiatric treatment and hopes that in a few years there will be traffic jams in every area with access.

“There are a lot of areas that have found a mobile problem group that did not have a year ago. There are a lot of areas that now have entry points or entry points that did not have a year ago.

Work and money

Both CommUnity and Foundation 2 are looking forward to the increase in mobile phone numbers when the number three starts.

Martel said in Iowa, the international route has been receiving about 12,000 calls each year. But it could receive up to 71,000 calls between this July and July 2023, according to Vibrant, an agency that works with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to run the national line.

Vibrant also showed a significant increase in text messages sent to the lifestyle, as well as chats from the world’s suicidal ideation website, due to the increase in sales and information that will come with the 988 release, according to Nelson.

Based on the expected increase, CommUnity and Foundation 2 have been working to recruit more employees. CommUnity has doubled its staff since January, from 88 employees to 173.

“It’s not just about adding complex counselors. “We need to increase the number of supervisors and coordinators and the people who are committed to ensuring that we have the highest quality education and training,” Nelson said.

Increasing staff is costly, and the new line-up will include new and improved technology that will also need to be paid, according to Martel. The federal government pays very little, and the federal government also provides some, but it is not clear whether the additional funding for this line will come from that if the calls are increased as predicted.

“At the moment there is no reliable source of funding. This is true in many states. I think the concern for all of us who work on this project is how it will look,” Martel said.

One of the technological innovations that may cost money is increasing the potential for geolocation, such as those used by 911, Martel said.

At present the suicidal numbers are based on a local number, meaning that a person living in Iowa who has a unique number from another area and calls 988 can reach a provider from another area. But counselors can transfer phones easily.

To be helped

Phone: Call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 800-273-8255, or 988 from July 16th.

Online: Go to

Private: Go to the nearest psychiatric ward, located at this link

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