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The new 988 system reduces pressure on 911 and promises better care


Thirteen years ago, when my son was a senior in high school, he had his first break with reality — a spiritual episode.

Like most families, we didn’t know what was happening and we didn’t know what to do. I called a friend who introduced me to a psychologist who did not have health insurance and did not treat common, gene-based schizophrenia that affects 1.1% of the population.

We lost more than a year before we realized that our son had this serious brain disorder that required immediate dosing and therapeutic treatment to lead a productive and meaningful life. ..

For families and individuals unfamiliar with local behavioral health resources, the new 988 National Hotline for Behavioral Health and Suicide Prevention will be a lifesaver and provide a simple portal to complex systems. Children like our son can lead to treatments available throughout the state.

People with loved ones suffering from substance use disorders, mental illness, or autism have sought a kinder and more effective medical response rather than law enforcement since deinstitutionalization in the 1970s. I did.

“Please, my child is ill and needs help, not handcuffs,” exclaimed supporters of the National Mental Illness Family Alliance (NAMI).

Ashley Grimes, President of NAMI Florida, said: This ultimately improves results, reduces taxpayer costs and saves lives. “

Families and their loved ones in need of help have suffered from a continuous crisis mode for years, while having to deal with stigma. Mental illness is not posted on Twitter or Facebook.

For those who manage out-of-control behavior, thoughts, or addictions, the 988 eliminates stigma because it aims to connect the caller to proper care, not arrest. Ideas are the most unobtrusive and least costly response by linking callers to counseling, treatment, psychiatry, certified recovery peer specialists, assessments, stabilization, detoxification, case management, and medication support treatments. Is to provide. ..

At the very least, an effective crisis response system must come to the people with whom you are talking, those at stake, and provide a place for them to go for further help. Fortunately, most calls are resolved by phone (or text or chat), saving time and money associated with dispatching first responders.

In addition, moving behavioral health calls from 911 to 988 alleviates the overloaded and understaffed 911 dispatch system, which is estimated by federal government surveys to be at least 18% of calls.

The new 3-digit hotline saves money in many ways. Avoid hospitalizations and trips to emergency rooms — repeated until someone gets the help they need. Prison and court costs and homeless costs are significantly reduced, as people with untreated severe mental illness or substance use disorders can be arrested or homeless.

The most important thing is to save lives.

With 988 calls to Broward 211-Broward-trained callers have already escalated behavioral health emergencies and provided counseling referrals for many years.

Until 988 begins by July 16th, Americans can call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-TALK. From that date onwards, both numbers will work and in Broward County, the 211 hotline will remain an option as well.

When the 988 begins to be promoted nationwide, are existing centers ready to respond quickly to the dramatic increase in phone calls? So far, Florida’s 12 national suicide prevention lifelines have not received significant money in preparation for 988.

The Florida Children’s and Family Department was recently awarded a $ 5.2 million grant from the Federal Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 85% of which goes to lifelines, with Cindy Chrischer Goodman among her. As reported in, it’s almost not enough April 15th, the story of Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, “The suicide hotline will soon be three digits.But Florida isn’t ready, defenders say.. “

As Curtis Mayfield said, “People are ready, the train is coming.” Florida communities, states, and the federal government need to get in.

Gail Gyze is Chairman of the Florida Mental Health Advocacy Union, Director of NAMI-Florida, and Appointer of the State’s 988 Planning Union. She lives in Broward County.




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