CommUnity Crisis Services, a local nonprofit organization based in Iowa City, is one of two Iowa centers that will be answering contacts for the new 988 number to access the national suicide prevention lifeline, launching nationwide on July 16.

988 is the new, low-barrier number connecting those in crisis to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Individuals experiencing thoughts of suicide or in need of emotional support can call, text, or chat with a crisis counselor any time of day, every day of the year. Contacts in Iowa will be directed to two local centers, CommUnity Crisis Services in Iowa City and Foundation2 in Cedar Rapids.

"We believe the 988 hotline is going to save lives and get members of our community the help and resources they need in a much faster and more efficient manner than before," said City Manager Geoff Fruin. "This is a vital resource for the community and we're excited CommUnity will be an integral part in the delivery of services."

When in crisis and seeking help, individuals are most likely to reach out to the lowest barrier and easiest to remember resources. Offering a low-barrier, three-digit number is expected to increase calls to the lifeline and divert calls from other emergency services. Connecting people to the appropriate emergency service in their time of crisis helps the individual get what they need as soon as possible, as well as helping all emergency services operate smoothly.  As a community, we strive to focus on the right intervention, at the right time.

“Having a number like 911 for those experiencing a mental health crisis is incredibly valuable and aligns with our efforts to make sure non-law enforcement calls are being diverted from the police department," said Iowa City Police Chief Dustin Liston. "We have a strong relationship with CommUnity and the 988 hotline will continue to improve our partnership."

Additionally, the less steps and time it takes to connect people to the appropriate service, the more likely the individual is to receive the help they need.

“Through phone, chat and text services we are able to provide needed support during the initial contact 80% of the time. This provides the community with the right level of intervention, avoiding more intensive services. As such, we are able to both support our neighbors, and provide cost savings to the community as a whole.” said Sarah Nelson, CEO of CommUnity Crisis Services. 

If the crisis situation cannot be handled by the counselor over phone, chat, or text, the counselor can connect the individual in crisis to local resources, such as CommUnity’s Mobile Crisis Response, which dispatches crisis counselors to respond in-person in Johnson and Iowa Counties.

If you or a loved one are in need of emotional support, please do not hesitate to reach out. You are not alone. Beginning July 16, individuals in crisis can call or text 988 to be connected to a counselor. Prior to July 16, please continue to contact the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact CommUnity’s Crisis Helpline directly at 1-855-325-4296.

Date of publication

Thursday, July 07, 2022