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Beshear, mental health advocates urge Kentuckians suffering mental health crises to call new 988 lifeline

Corrine Boyer

Mental health advocates in Kentucky are hoping the launch of a three-digit mental
health crisis hotline will help remove the stigma of reaching out for assistance.

The new 988 hotline went live nationally over the weekend. Trained counselors will offer quick help to those experiencing suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies.

Advocates joined Governor Andy Beshear Monday to promote the suicide and crisis lifeline.

Gov. Beshear said the new number will provide a quick, easy, and free way for those suffering mental health issues to get help.

“It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Counselors respond to calls, chats, or text messages directly from those in need as well as those Kentuckians who are concerned about a loved one or friend who may need help.”

Marcie Timmerman, executive director of Mental Health America Kentucky, said the new three-digit lifeline is much easier to access compared to the ten-digit number that was previously in place.

“How many people didn’t make the call? How many people didn’t get to the right person? How many didn’t know the 800 number? Now we have 988,” Timmerman said. “That shortens that time. It saves lives by taking away some of those processes, steps, and harassment trying to get the help you needed when you were in your worst moment.”

Thirteen centers in Kentucky will provide the primary coverage for lifeline calls
made in all 120 counties in the state.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults in
Kentucky. A risk behavior study released last fall showed 15% of Kentucky high school students reported having seriously considered suicide during the previous year.

The commonwealth received a federal grant worth just more than $1 million to help prepare for the implementation of the 988 lifeline, and the new two-year state budget includes $19.6 million to support the lifeline’s infrastructure and create mobile mental health crisis services.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.