KANSAS CITY, Kan. — To make it easier for individuals to get help, the nation is launching a new mental health hotline number Saturday.

Kansas and Missouri may face paying for this critical service.

The 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is being replaced by 988 tomorrow, and supporters predict it will become as familiar a phone number as 911.

The goal of the hotline is to make interventions and resources more accessible to a person experiencing a mental health crisis.

So far this year, the Johnson County, Kansas, crisis line has received nearly 19,000 calls — more than twice the amount it received in the entire year of 2017.

“It’s designed to allow for more specialization and more staffing,” Susan Crain Lewis, president and CEO of Mental Health America of the Heartland, said. “Now we all know what getting staff is like right now. So I know folks are really, really working hard to get those absolutely staffed up. I know monies are being put in there, but is it going to be enough? Is it fast enough? Do you have people in your area who are ready, willing and able to work, that can be trained up to handle these types of calls?”

Johnson County plans to have mobile crisis response teams that can be sent out on a moment’s notice.

While 988 is a national hotline, each state must develop a plan and fund it to make sure the 24-hour crisis hotline stays up and running.

Missouri mental health officials are setting up six call centers and two back-up crisis centers at a cost of about $16 million. Kansas has approved $6 million for 988 call centers for two years, but long-term funding in each state remains in doubt.



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