NAMI Chicago prepares for launch of mental health crisis hotline

CHICAGO (WLS) -- NAMI Chicago operates a mental health help line locally.

Advocates there understand the urgency in getting callers help and the national plan to start three-digit suicide prevention calling code is a big project.

"We are rolling out on July 16," said NAMI Chicago Policy Director Rachel Bhagwat. "We have a lot more work to do at that time."

The federal government mandated the new 988 nationwide suicide prevention dialing code. It's not available yet, but is supposed to be up and running July 16.

Each state must implement 988, but some are concerned the code meant to help Illinoisans in crisis may not be all that's promised.

"Unfortunately, Illinois only has six call centers that will be entering 988 and most of the calls coming in are not being answered in Illinois right now," Bhagwat said. "So we have a lot of funding that needs to come through, a lot of building to get more call centers on this network."

Bhagwat said 988 locally needs more coordination with emergency mental health mobile services and needs to be funded long term.

"We know when 911 rolled out nationwide it took close to 10 years to get it really functional and get a really good system nationwide," Bhagwat said. "So, we know this rollout is going to be slow process."

ABC7 reached out to the state's Department of Human Services, which is coordinating local 988. The department's spokesman said no one was available for an interview Monday, but said there would be more news in the coming weeks as the state prepares to go live with 988 on July 16.
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