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Oklahoma launches 988 mental health lifeline to assist with mental health crisis

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According to Integris, nearly one in four Oklahomans suffer from a mental illness, and Oklahomans commit suicide at the 13th-highest rate in the country.

The creators of 988 are hoping it becomes the mental crisis equivalent to 911, a number to call when you or someone you know is dealing with a mental issue.

It’s why the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse is focusing on revamping how they respond to crises.

“We have transportation that has been changed in how people are able to be transported to facilities. We have mobile crisis teams rolling out. We’ve made changes within the community mental health structure and the capabilities of those providers,” said Jeff Dismukes, director of communications, ODMHSAS.

At the start of July, the department added 988 as a resource for people to talk to a mental health expert.

Callers or texters in Oklahoma are routed to the Solari call center in Oklahoma.

“Where it will be answered by trained crisis specialists who are prepared to work with the caller and help them with any situation they are dealing with and also connect them to local resources for continued help," said Thomas Bond, director of communications, Solari Crisis & Human Services.

Solari has seen an increase in mental health calls since the beginning of the pandemic as more people are dealing with depression and anxiety.

Dismukes says the 988 mental health lifeline could be used before someone gets into a crisis.

“This is much more than just crisis response but it’s certainly there when behavioral health is the need for outreach and it doesn’t necessarily involve a criminal justice issue," said Dismukes

While some other states that rolled out 988 have seen issues, Dismukes says that hasn’t been the case in Oklahoma.


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