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The U.S. shifted to an easy-to-remember mental health number. Here’s how it changed crisis care.

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Yellow buttons saying "Talk About Mental Health" sit on a table.
David Condos
Kansas News Service
Last month, the U.S. changed its mental health hotline number to 988.

In July, the U.S. transitioned from a ten-digit mental health hotline to a simpler number: 988.

On July 16, the U.S. moved the suicide and crisis hotline to a simple three-digit number: 988. Americans can dial the number for resources, substance abuse issues and during mental health crises. The government hoped the transition would help people remember the number and facilitate greater access to crisis care.

Depending on the area code, callers in the Kansas City area may connect withJohnson County Mental Health Center (JCMHC) in Kansas or CommCARE in Missouri. Dr. Kristin Feeback of CommCARE and Rob MacDougall of JCMHC detailed how the new number, along with increased federal funding and staffing at local call centers, contributed to a boost in calls, answer rates and caller retention. Joseph Palm of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 7 also joined Up To Date to discuss the hotline.

Moving forward, call centers across the country must continue to work with state legislatures to ensure funding and staffing needs are met.

  • Dr. Kristin Feeback, CEO of CommCARE
  • Rob MacDougall, Director of Emergency Services at JCMHC
  • Joseph Palm, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 7 Director
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Hannah Cole is an intern with KCUR's Up To Date.
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