SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – The national three-digit suicide and mental health crisis hotline 988 begins July 16. It will allow anyone experiencing a mental health emergency to dial 988 and receive support.

In January, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) received the Lifeline’s 988 State Planning Grant through Vibrant Emotional Health. With this grant, the state was able to develop plans to build the infrastructure for the Lifeline and help grow access.

On Monday, July 11, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly ceremoniously signed Senate Bill 19 in Sedgwick County, which she officially signed on June 2. The bill not only created behavioral health intervention teams for the state but also established that $10 million in state general funds will be appropriated to fund 9-8-8 with no access fee for Kansans every July 1.

“With 9-8-8, we are on the path to reversing our country’s mental health crisis and getting Kansans the help they need,” Kelly said. “Just as every American knows to call 911 in times of emergency, every American – and every Kansan – will soon know to call 988 when they or a loved one is facing a mental health or substance abuse crisis.”

Whether they’re dealing with a mental health or substance abuse emergency, Kansans who dial 988 will be routed to a local crisis specialist trained to address unique concerns and needs, which may include assessment, stabilization, referral, and follow-up. In addition, callers will be connected to resources available in their community, including in-person crisis services.

“Kansas is the 14th state to fund 988 through legislation, and we are excited for the national launch of 9-8-8,” KDADS Behavioral Health Services Commissioner Andrew Brown said. “KDADS has been working throughout the Kelly Administration to increase the infrastructure in Kansas for suicide prevention and crisis intervention in preparation for 9-8-8. This will be the first of several milestones that will help Kansans experiencing a crisis get improved access to the help they need during a crisis.”

KDADS partnered with the Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ, Johnson County Mental Health, COMCARE of Sedgwick County, HealthSource Information Solutions, and TBD Solutions LLC to help develop the infrastructure for the Lifeline. This includes setting clear roadmaps to address coordination, capacity, funding, and communications.

“Coming into this weekend with a little bit of an unknown – you know we are not sure how much things are going to increase this first weekend. We have really just made sure that we had got more people scheduled who are available to take those phone calls,” said Monica Kurz, the Vice President for Policy and Prevention for the Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ.

Individuals will still be able to access the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) after July 16. Both the current Lifeline and the 988 Lifeline will be available via call, text, or chat. All phone service providers are required to connect callers who dial 988 to the Lifeline.

With state funding, The Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ has added 17 full-time positions, and COMCARE of Sedgwick County has added 6 positions, including a mobile crisis clinician. Another center is also underway.

“Health Information Solutions or HIS is going to be becoming active this month – as an additional rollover center for Kansas,” said Kurz.