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Iowa launches new 988 hotline for mental health support

Iowa is launching 988 on July 16, a new mental health hotline with an easy-to-remember number.
Ümit Bulut
Iowa is launching 988 on July 16, a new mental health hotline with an easy-to-remember number.

Starting Saturday, Iowans who are in need of mental health support will have a new number to call - 988.

The new hotline is part of a nationwide shift to expand the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and changes its 10-digit number into a three-digit number that's easier to remember.

"The idea that you would be able to access crisis mental health services with a three-digit number is great. It is really difficult when people are in crisis to remember to Google a number," Emily Blomme, the CEO of Foundation 2 Crisis Services in Cedar Rapids, one of the organizations contracted with the state to set up 988.

New services under 988 include the option to text. Local call centers will also operate online chat conversations that were previously routed through national Suicide Prevention Lifeline call centers.

"It's basically taking the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has existed forever, and really saying, we're going to make this more easily accessible, and we're going to use it as a platform to really redesign crisis services across the country," Blomme said.

Iowans who call the number will be connected to a crisis counselor who can provide telephone counseling or direct them to other mental health resources.

This includes local crisis intervention services, which are available in 88 of Iowa's 99 counties.

"It is a direct connection for anyone experiencing a mental health related distress issue, whether it's thoughts of suicide, mental health, substance use crisis, any kind of emotional distress — if they're worried about a loved one, you know, any of those things are appropriate for them to call 988," said Sarah Nelson, the CEO of CommUnity in Iowa City, the other organization contracted to set up 988 in Iowa.

According to state health data, the number of Iowans who have died by suicide has been trending upwards for the past decade.

If you are in need of help, you can contact the Iowa Warm line at 1-844-775-9276, the Iowa Concern hotline at 800-447-1985, or Your Life Iowa at (855) 581-8111 (call) or (855) 895-8398 (text).

Para obtener ayuda en español, llame al 531-800-3687.

Starting July 16, Iowans can call 988.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter