Johnson County adds 4 crisis call specialists to help staff 988 suicide prevention line

Starting July 16, Johnson Countians can dial 988 to access the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which locally will be manned by crisis specialists at the Johnson County Mental Health Center. Image from joco.gov

Johnson County’s mental health crisis response team is growing by four positions.

What’s happening: At last week’s meeting, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners approved the addition of four full-time crisis call specialist positions to the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

  • The new positions are funded through a grant from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

What would they do? The crisis call specialists will answer calls to the Johnson County Crisis Line and the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

  • The specialists are expected to provide a range of services over the phone, including counseling, mental health screenings and referrals to resources.

How do you reach these lines? The Johnson County Crisis Line is already reachable at 913-268-0156.

  • The National Suicide Prevention Line is currently reachable at 800-273-8255, but in July, callers nationwide will be able to reach it simply by dialing 988.
  • Both Johnson County’s Crisis Lin and the National Suicide Prevention Line are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why it matters: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is in the process of transitioning to 988, which goes into effect on July 16.

  • The Kansas Legislature this past session overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill inaugurating the 988 hotline in the state, after Congress in 2019 authorized 988 as the new universal number for suicide prevention help.
  • The four new specialists for Johnson County’s Crisis Team are part of the transition to the new 988 line.
  • According to last week’s release, JCMHC saw an increase in demand for these services in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Due to this and the new, more accessible 988 line, the center expects the number of calls to continue to increase in the future.

What has that looked like? According to data presented to the Board of County Commissioners last week, Johnson County’s Crisis Line response team was able to answer 80% of total calls in 2021.

  • The county received 49,314 crisis calls in 2021, an increase of roughly 14% over 2020’s total.

Key quote: “Adding these four new positions is a critical step in building our 988 Crisis Team as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline transitions to 988,” said Johnson County Mental Health Center director Tim DeWeese. “The easy-to-remember 988 number will make crisis assistance resources more accessible and save lives around the country.”