New 988 number will mean simpler access to crisis care in mental health
The local Canadian Mental Health Association for the Kawartha Region (CMHA) will be undergoing what they describe as a major transition with their crisis service programming.
Last year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced it will adopt 988 as the national number to call or text for Canadians who need immediate mental health crisis and suicide prevention intervening.
Starting Nov. 30 at 3 a.m., E.T., CMHA is going to be the number’s service provider for the Kawartha Lakes region. Those in the region who call 988 will be routed based on their area code and the next three digits of their phone number. Then, if their line is busy, the call would move up to a provincial responder, or a national responder if they were busy too.
“This new initiative will mean even simpler access to crisis care for residents of Kawartha Lakes,” said Jack Veitch, manager of community engagement and education for CMHA.
“In our previous model,” said Ellen Watkins, director of corporate services for CMHA, “we didn’t have the ability to have someone else pick up the line if we were already a caller. Now, with 988, there’s never a time when you will leave a message anymore. Someone will always be able to take your call.”
Callers will be directed to the appropriate services of Suicidal, Mental Health Crisis, or Seeking Connection. If a caller is suicidal, Watkins explained they will determine if mobile crisis intervention, emergency medical services, and/or hospital transportation is required, or if they are able to stay safe in the community without those interventions and with a robust safety plan. The Mental Health Crisis line provides a brief service mental health worker. And the Seeking Connection line has a connection to a caring listener, a “warm phone line”, according to CMHA’s services model.
CMHA also operates the Four County Crisis Line, which provides a continuum of response services to individuals with a serious mental illness, mental health concerns, and individuals in crisis. Watkins said CMHA also has 20 years of data, as well as info provided by the 988 team, and new linkage to 39 other providers, so they feel ready to take on this new role for the community.
988 will be available to anyone across Canada thinking of suicide, experiencing emotional distress, or is worried about someone they know. If a caller is using a cell phone with no data or plan, they can call 988 in the same way they can call 911.