South Dakota Adopts 988 as New Suicide Prevention Hotline


The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline will go live Saturday across the country and in South Dakota.

The number is available to call or text anyone who is experiencing a behavioral health crisis and needs to reach trained mental health professionals. A chat function will also be available on the helpline’s website.

In South Dakota, the lifeline will be provided 24 hours a day by the Sioux Falls-based helpline.

The new three-digit hotline replaces 1-800-273-TALK (8225), which was the old suicide prevention lifeline. It was launched on January 1, 2005.

“It’s interesting because the long number has been around for a long time, but for so long that people have forgotten it’s there. So by changing the number, I think, and just pointing out that this service is available, I think it’s going to be used a lot, especially in the beginning,” said Karla Salem, integrated health therapist at Sanford. “As it goes on, people will understand that it’s still there and I think it will be used more.”

Here’s what you need to know about the service and what it means for behavioral care in South Dakota:

New 988 hotline designed for a number of resources

Help desk workers LuAnn Berkhof and Alex Pool respond to calls Wednesday, July 13, 2022 in Sioux Falls.  The Helpline Center will officially launch the 988 crisis line on Saturday.

The 988 hotline is designed for crisis situations, behavioral health resource information, substance abuse information and support programs and care coordination as well as aftercare support.

The new hotline is much broader than its predecessor and focuses on all types of mental health, substance use, emotional distress and other types of crises.

“The idea is to make it wider like that, it will encourage more people to seek help. … We would often get feedback from people saying, ‘Well, I didn’t call number 1 -800-273-TALK because I wasn’t sure I was suicidal,” said Helpline Center CEO Janet Kittams.

Other hopes for the new hotline include reduced use of law enforcement, improved public health and public safety, meeting the growing need for response systems, and an end to the stigma related to the need for mental health care.

“The goal of 988 is to connect a person in mental health crisis with a trained counselor who can intervene and help provide them with resources and support,” said Tiffany Wolfgang, division director of behavioral health at DSS, Argus leader in September. .

In South Dakota, the Sioux Falls Helpline Center is the only Lifeline crisis center in the state and provides statewide help.

At the helpline, 10 people take phone calls, all with master’s degrees in related fields such as counseling, social work or various types of behavioral health degrees, Kittams said.

“The idea is to have highly trained counselors answering this phone number (988),” Kittams said. “We’re going to provide short-term counseling, we’re going to assess what’s going on with this person, we’re going to stabilize them and hopefully de-escalate the crisis, and then connect them to behavioral health resources in the local community. . ”

The Mobile Crisis Team differs from state to state and works closely with law enforcement

Helpline Center CEO Janet Kittams speaks about the upcoming launch of the 988 Crisis Line on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 in Sioux Falls.

When needed, the helpline also uses mobile crisis team units. This usually consists of a mental health professional and a law enforcement officer traveling to the scene of a person in crisis.

Unlike most communities in South Dakota, Sioux Falls has a mobile crisis team.

“A lot of times what they do is stabilize the situation, talk with the person and hopefully they don’t have to go beyond that, but in some situations they may have to. take them to a hospital setting like a hospital like Avera Behavioral Health,” Kittams said.

In other communities, they have to be a little more creative using technology.

“Instead of a face-to-face mobile crisis team, they have a virtual mobile crisis. So it would be the law enforcement person responding and they would be using an iPad, and Avel eCare has the ability to connect them via iPad with a mental health professional,” Kittams said.

Kittams estimated that about 80% of the time, no further action on calls is needed and can be defused.

Earlier: South Dakota plans to adopt national suicide hotline 988

Helpline hopes more people will use 988

Helpline center employees answer calls Wednesday, July 13, 2022 in Sioux Falls.  The Helpline Center will officially launch the 988 crisis line on Saturday.

To reach the hotline, all a caller would have to do is dial 988. While the new number is rolled out, the old hotline number will remain in effect. The change is part of a national effort to support a more recognizable number.

“If you can imagine being in an emotional slump when you’re mentally hurting to try to find a number and dial it, I think it’s a little effort, it takes a little focus and concentration, which is usually what that you don’t have when you’re in some kind of crisis,” Salem said. “So 988 seems like a pretty good number to remember.”

With the Suicide Prevention Line, Kittams said they average around 3,000 calls a year, and recently the numbers have been relatively normal. Kittams added that they were getting a “huge number” of mental health-related phone calls through 211, which is designed for community information and support.

People in crisis can also send an SMS to the number 988 and will be put in touch with a specialist. While texting, which is only available in English, specialists will provide support and share helpful resources, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. There are also plans to expand SMS services to increase responses at the local and state level.

In the call center, Lifeline uses LanguageLine Solutions, which is an on-demand language interpretation and document translation service in more than 240 languages, according to the organization’s website.

Those who use the Services can use the chat opportunities. While the text option has been around for a while now, the chat feature is new, Kittams said.

To use the chat feature, callers are directed to visit the Helpline Center webpage, which includes a link that redirects to the national website. In this option, callers will answer a short series of questions and, depending on their location, will be assigned to a local specialist.

Local specialists at your service

When calling the hotline, callers with a 605 area code phone number will be put through to a local specialist if available, or someone in the area. People with area code numbers other than 605 will be routed to the call center located in their area code.

In late May, the FCC held a hearing regarding the new hotline and the ability to use geolocation, similar to how 911 can track calls. There hasn’t been a decision on that, but Kittams is hoping for a positive outcome.

After:Department of Social Services Receives Grant for 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

According to those close to the program, having local specialists is crucial.

“A lot of people feel a lot more comfortable talking to people who are more regional, just because culturally there’s a lot of different things they can connect with,” Salem said.

This is also important for the helpline, which can organize resources for those who call the hotline.

Helpline center credentials are posted on the office wall Wednesday, July 13, 2022 in Sioux Falls.  The Helpline Center will officially launch the 988 crisis line on Saturday.

“The link to resources is number 1. We have a great understanding of the resources available to this person in the community. So in the Helpline Center, we maintain a resource database of 5,000 programs and agencies that serve South Dakota,” Kittams said. “A lot of them could be basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, but a lot of them are resources related to mental health, whether it’s family counseling, other kinds of one-to-one counseling, support groups… Or addiction treatment, so the staff here with knowledge of whatever can make a better connection for that caller.

The helpline also uses the 211 helpline, but this is for different needs, including housing and rental assistance, utility assistance, food resources, government information, financial aid, disaster information, basic health information, tax preparation assistance, volunteer opportunities and childcare information, according to the website of the ‘organization.


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