The impact of new suicide hotline

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In the summer of 2022, a new suicide hotline number was introduced…988. Jim Dunn, Executive Director and CEO of National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) Arizona, and Andrew Erwin, Chief Operating Officer of Solari Crisis and Human Services, join Ted to discuss the hotline’s impact.

The number was created specifically to make it easier for those in crisis to reach out. They only need to remember three digits, instead of a full 10-digit phone number.

“That really does two things: one is it’s easier for people to remember,” said Erwin. “The other thing it does is it lines it up with 911.”

As Erwin points out, there has been a significant increase in calls since the 988 hotline was created. In January, they received 5,000 calls. Comparatively, they usually receive 2500 calls per month.

“Having access, being able to reach someone in time of need” is vitally important, as Dunn points out.

When an individual calls the 988 hotline, they will be connected with a crisis specialist on staff. Erwin says that eighty five percent of the time, team members are able to stabilize the individual over the phone. This means that higher level of intervention would be needed at that time.

Fifteen percent of the time, when further intervention is needed, two-member mobile teams are sent out to meet with the individual face to face. The team members will attempt to stabile the individual themselves. If this is not possible, the individual will be brought to an inpatient facility.

“There’s really three steps to the system, and each one of those is trying to engage [the individual] at the lowest level possible,” said Erwin.

The hotline serves individuals across Arizona. It has received the most calls from Mohave, Pima, Maricopa and Yuma counties.

Jim Dunn, Executive Director and CEO of NAMI Arizona; Andrew Erwin, Chief Operating Officer of Solari Crisis and Human Services

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