Mississippi Department of Mental Health receives grant to fund new suicide prevention lifeline

Published 5:07 pm Monday, February 8, 2021

Press release from Department of Mental Health

Jackson, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) announced Monday it is receiving $125,000 in funding toward planning for the implementation of a new national three-digit dialing code, 988, for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“The new 988 number will make it easier for Mississippians in suicidal or emotional distress to receive immediate assistance and connect to mental health resources within their communities,” said DMH Executive Director Wendy Bailey. “We are excited to work with partners across the state to plan for implementation of this initiative so Mississippians who need support can count on the Lifeline. Recent data shows that calls to the Lifeline from Mississippians have increased by 40 percent in FY 2020. Improving awareness and access is vital to continue to meet the needs of our citizens.”

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The grant funds will be used to help Mississippi Lifeline call centers prepare for infrastructure needs, volume growth, training and educating staff, data collection, as well as access to the Lifeline’s new 988 number. The funding comes from Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the 988 State Planning Grant.

In July 2022, 988 will become the national three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, replacing the current phone number of 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Federal legislation authorizing 988 as the three-digit code for the Lifeline was passed in October 2020.

DMH encourages Mississippians in crisis and concerned family members to continue to call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) until the 988 number becomes effective.

Alongside CONTACT the Crisis Line in Jackson and CONTACT Helpline in Columbus, DMH will develop clear roadmaps to address coordination, capacity, funding, and communications surrounding the launch of 988. The state’s public mental health system will also collaborate with state leadership, suicide prevention experts, people with lived experience, and others to create a 988 implementation plan and support the Lifeline’s operational, clinical, and performance standards that allow access to care.

Executive Director Brenda Patterson with CONTACT the Crisis Line says they are looking forward to the continued relationship with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline with the efforts of the implementation of 988.

“CONTACT the Crisis Line is celebrating 50 years of providing 24/7 emotional support and crisis intervention,” said Patterson. “We feel that the implementation of the 988 number will be of great value to ease the access to support for anyone in need.”

DMH will establish a Planning Coalition to include suicide attempt and loss survivors as well as key players from DMH, CONTACT the Crisis Line, representatives from the state’s Community Mental Health Center Mobile Crisis Response Teams, Peer Support Services and Crisis Stabilization Units, as well as the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Vibrant believes the new 988 number, once implemented, will ensure the Lifeline will continue to be America’s mental health safety net by providing emotional support for people in distress, reducing suicides and mental health crises, and providing a pathway to well-being for all.

“Access to mental health and crisis support has never been more critical for Americans,” said Kimberly Williams, President and CEO of Vibrant Emotional Health.  “Vibrant is committed to providing the states and territories with some of the resources they’ll need to plan for the implementation of 988 and to support their local crisis centers. By working together, we will increase access to care, reduce the stigma around mental health and, ultimately, save lives.”