(The Center Square) — With a new national mental health crisis hotline set to subsume state efforts in July, Illinois is scrambling to prepare.
Also known as 988, the new hotline is scheduled to go live on July 16 and will rely on existing Prairie State infrastructure.
“The intent is to connect those in need with Illinois providers and make it a more seamless approach,” Gerald Jud DeLoss, CEO of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, told The Center Square.
US Census Bureau data analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows the need for mental health help has increased in Illinois, with three in 10 people reporting feeling anxious and depressed late last year. Of these, 23% did not receive any advice.
“It’s not something they can or should face in silence and avoid sharing with their friends and family,” DeLoss said.
But Illinois has the worst call response rate in the nation, with just one in five crisis calls answered in the first three months of 2022, and call volume is expected to skyrocket when the new national 988 hotline takes hold. relay, The Illinois Newsroom reported.
Illinois currently does not have the manpower to field all calls, DeLoss said.
“Many calls are being transferred out of state due to the inability of existing centers to handle this volume of calls,” he said.
To that end, federal funds have already been channeled to help with the improvements. Even with additional federal funding and funding from a successful state legislative session, the labor shortage is making things difficult on both the call center side and the processing side, a said DeLoss.
“The ability to get them into treatment is going to be very difficult because there aren’t enough treatment providers, mental health and addiction providers available,” he said.
DeLoss warned that it will take time to resolve any labor issues, but he is hopeful and believes the state is moving in the right direction. He believes the change will be for the better.
“It will be a more cohesive and connected type of response,” he said.