The executive director of the Iowa chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says while the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has melted down in some other states, that hasn’t been the case here.
NAMI Iowa’s Peggy Huppert says that’s because the two crisis response services in eastern Iowa that have been handling 988 since it launched in July had been fielding suicide prevention calls and texts for some time.
“They were used to working together,” Huppert says. “And were used to working together with local law enforcement and other providers across the state.”
Foundation 2 Crisis Services in Cedar Rapids is handling Iowa phone calls to 988. CommUnity Crisis Services in Iowa City is handling text messages to 988 and has been contracted to handle texts from other states that aren’t being answered quickly. Goals set for 988 include responding to a text or answering a phone call within 30 seconds. In July, the average pick-up time in Iowa was 18 second for phone calls.
“I’m really impressed with that,” Huppert says. “We do want to have people call for help and get immediate help.”
Being able to text the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is critical, according to Huppert. “If you’re under a certain age, that’s just how you communicate, so we absolutely have to have that capability,” Huppert says.
CommUnity recently reported a 788% increase in the text messages it answers from Iowans and other states. CommUnity is a national back-up center for texts to the 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Foundation 2 Crisis Services in Cedar Rapids answered more than 1100 suicide hotline calls from Iowa in July. That’s 55% above the monthly average from January through June.