Ozark Center to be one of 200 original call centers for 988 crisis line

JOPLIN, Mo.–We all know to dial 911 in an emergency.  But during a mental health crisis, the number to call can be long and difficult to remember. 

Currently, it’s 1-800-273-8255, but by July there will be a new, three-digit number, made more simple. Starting in July, when someone experiencing a crisis dials 9-8-8, they’ll be connected with a crisis specialist,

“That means that any individual in any state in the United States can pick up their cell phone and dial nine, eight, eight, or they could text or chat to nine, eight, eight,” said Debbie Fitzgerald, Director of crisis services for the Ozark Center. 

One of the facilities providing these specialists will be the Ozark Crisis Center. Jeremy Floyd is a crisis specialist for the Ozark Crisis Center and will be one of the specialists answering the call when people dial into the new hotline. Floyd says when it comes to situations dealing with a mental health crisis, it’s important to stay calm.

“First first and foremost, you know, we tried to calm the individual that we’re talking with. and we use coping techniques and coping skills to call that individual and obtain information,” Floyd said. “I think it’s very important. A lot of communities lack mental health needs, and the more that we’re concentrating on the mental health problems within our nation, I think we’ll see more and more crisis centers populate throughout the country. But we definitely got to concentrate on mental health issues across the board,” he said.

The Ozark center will be one of 200 crisis call centers accepting 988 throughout the country.

“We’re going to be providing the hotline, the call service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And we have received a nine, eight eight implementation grant that’s allowed us to buy some new upgrades as far as i.t. purchase new furniture, purchase new chairs. we’re also adding seven new staff to our team to accommodate for what we anticipate will be the increases in volume.”

This number isn’t just for suicidal thoughts or self-harm, it can also be used for other mental health issues.

“People will know nine, eight, eight is for anything emotional, mental health, behavioral health or even addictions…it doesn’t have to necessarily be just thoughts of suicide, because if you can’t pay your rent and you’re worried about food or you can’t afford medication or your hours may be cut or reduced at work. You know, all of those things can add up and then cause a significant crisis. So if we can help, take one. Or to have those off somebody’s shoulders with community resources,” Fitzgerald said. 

The Ozark Center will begin accepting 9-8-8 calls effective July 16th. 9-8-8 will not currently eliminate the old national hotline.