More Arizonans calling new mental health hotline 988

When people call 988, a mental health professional will be on the other end of the line to help.
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 7:49 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) --The new mental health hotline was clearly needed. Since 988 debuted on July 16, it’s received more than 100,000 calls, texts and chats. When people call, a mental health professional will be on the other end of the line to help.

There was a 45% increase in calls the week before 988 rolled out. With only three digits, doctors say the number will be easier for people to remember. The line is there for people who are in a mental health crisis.

The care includes helping someone in the moment, as well as helping them find treatment long-term with counselors, doctors or therapists. People can call 988 instead of calling 911 and having police or EMTs respond.

Dr. Heather Ross with Arizona State University says this new hotline will save people in crisis, but it’s not perfect. Dr. Ross says there is a shortage of mental health professionals. “A lot of people were struggling with mental health before COVID. COVID unmasked a lot of that for people,” she said. “We’ve always been short on the services that we have to offer people, and people didn’t always know how to access those services.”

Dr. Ross says they need more people in the pipeline to give others seeking treatment more options. Sometimes people will call the hotline and hang up before speaking with someone. People looking to meet with a mental health professional also have to wait a few months before an appointment opens. “We’ve got a real workforce issue with mental health care. Hopefully we see wait times getting shorter shorter and shorter,” she said