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National Suicide Hotline Begins Operation July 16 --- 988

The hotline comes with expanded services, especially for those who do not require hospitalization.

Starting Saturday there’s a new national suicide hotline — 988. In New Jersey it will use the existing system of five hotlines.

Services will be expanded, especially for those who don’t require hospitalization. There will be mobile response teams available 24/7, and police will not be part of those teams.

“This is all about improving access to care, to appropriate care, to assisting equity, and to not involving law enforcement when it’s not necessary when you really need mental health professionals,” said Mary Abrams of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.

Abrams said health care providers and law enforcement are working together on this.

“Some of them have social workers placed in police departments, they’re just building relationships and systems locally so that people in crisis if they do end up, if they’re calling 911 already, they’re really getting a warm handoff to mental health professionals when it’s appropriate,” she said.

Abrams said the volume of calls is expected to surge.

“The state, and across the country, they are expecting that the volume is going to so greatly increase and that’s without even any marketing going on and there are going to be a lot of both federal and state level marketing campaigns,” she said.

The services will be paid for with state and federal pandemic relief funding since suicides and mental health disorders have risen sharply during the pandemic.

There is one suicide in the US every 11 minutes and about 12 million people each year report seriously considering suicide.

Calls to New Jersey’s suicide prevention center spiked to 65,000 in 2021 from 47,000 in 2019.

Janice Kirkel is a lifelong award-winning journalist who has done everything from network newscasts to national and local sports reports to business newscasts to specialized reporting and editing in technical areas of business and finance such as bankruptcy, capital structure changes and reporting on the business of the investment business.