Lynne Hermansen
Governor Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 19 that creates the state’s suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline and behavioral health intervention teams. It provides funding and regulation for a statewide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week suicide hotline that will be operational when launched July 16. Kansans will soon be able to call 9-8-8 the same way they would call 911 to receive support during a mental health emergency.
The hotline will be within the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Centers network.
“The creation of the 9-8-8 suicide prevention hotline will provide Kansans immediate access to qualified mental health care providers during moments of crisis,” Governor Kelly said. “There’s no doubt, having mobile crisis teams just a phone call away will save lives.”
Nick Wood, associate director of Interjab, said having better access to crisis support services for Kansans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) will help to address some of the system problems.
“Behavioral health crises among IDD populations only represent a small fraction of overall psychiatric and substance use emergencies, but they’re often high impact and can seriously disrupt a person’s life,” he said. “When a crisis situation occurs, bringing in a professional who understands IDD conditions such as autism and how it’s manifesting can help avoid a fatal or traumatizing interaction.”
The mobile crisis teams are created through partnerships between behavioral health professionals and others who provide professional, community-based crisis intervention services, which include de-escalation and stabilization for Kansans experiencing a behavioral health crisis. They will provide direct assistance to individuals.
Ryan Reza, public policy and advocacy director for Kansas National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), said the hotline is monumental for the state of Kansas and the mental health community and would enable crisis centers in the state to have better responses to mental health emergencies.
“It allows for our crisis call centers to be able to better provide for Kansans across the state,” he said. “The 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline will change how organizations like NAMI Kansas operate in Kansas, creating new pathways for mental health stakeholders to help Kansans in need.”
The hotline is supported with $10 million in annual appropriations from the State of Kansas. Oversight is provided by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and a newly appointed 988 council.
The bill was adopted in the House 112-6 and 25-2 in the Senate.
Brenda Landwehr, Republican representative from Wichita, said the hotline would provide an effective tool for struggling Kansans.
“The program is one element of an ongoing effort to make the state’s mental health system among the best in the country,” she said.
Pat Pettey, Democrat Senator from Kansas City, said the legislature had been looking at mental health services in depth.
“988 not only helps to provide timely support and access but it frees 911 to do quick emergency work,” she said.