Illinois prepares for new National Suicide Crisis Hotline

7 call centers around Illinois have been contracted to help individuals in crisis or their loved ones get help locally

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ByLeah Hope via WLS logo
Saturday, July 16, 2022
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Seven call centers around Illinois have been contracted to help individuals in crisis or their loved ones get help locally.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The state of Illinois is preparing for the new National Suicide Crisis Lifeline: 9-8-8.

The federal government requires the states to have 988 call centers ready by the official start Saturday.

"It's been years in the making in terms of building the infrastructure to make sure there is something behind the number, as well as trained individuals and services that follow," said IL Secretary Grace Hou with the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Hou said seven call centers around Illinois have been contracted to help individuals in crisis or their loved ones get help locally.

"We have built the capacity where well over 85% of Illinois residents calls will go to someone who is receiving those calls from Illinois," Hou added.

RELATED: Suicide prevention: New 988 hotline is the 911 for mental health emergencies

The most recent data from the CDC shows that there were 1,362 deaths by suicide in Illinois in 2020.

"I'm so worried about disappointing people who are feeling fragile and alone," said Alexa James, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago.

While James sees the progress in 988, she hopes there is growth in mental treatment options.

"I hope that we follow up as a second step and really invest in the infrastructure so that capacity is never the issue in getting people linked to services," James said.

Just as Americans have learned to call 9-1-1 for an emergency, 9-8-8 is a new tool to help in a mental health crisis.

The new 9-8-8 number is an effort to reduce the stigma of mental health care and more immediately help those struggling through the crisis, out of the hospital, out of jail and onto the rest of their lives.