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Missouri ranks among top states for answering mental health crisis calls

EDITOR'S NOTE: A statistic has been corrected.


Missouri has ranked in the top 10 states for percent of calls answered on the 988 hotline since the hotline's launch.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline launched in July 2022, and nearly one year later the Missouri Department of Mental Health said it has experienced "minimal challenges" with staffing, unlike several other states.

Data from Vibrant Emotional Health shows the state has been able to answer about 90% of the calls the hotline receives. The lowest number since the launch of the hotline was in the first month, July 2022, at 87%, and the highest was in May at 94%.

Missouri's 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline call volume and answer rate (Courtesy: Missouri Department of Mental Health)

"The national expectation with answering 988 calls is that  states should have a 90% or above in state call answer rate. Ours is currently at 94%. So we're meeting that national expectation. Of course, we want to shoot for as close to 100% as possible and I think we're kind of on our way there," said Casey Muckler, 988 Coordinator for the Department of Mental Health.

Other states such as Alabama, New York, Minnesota and Nevada have reported staffing challenges making it more difficult for them to answer calls to their crisis hotlines. The Department of Mental Health told ABC 17 News in an email that, while not immune to staffing issues, the state's 988 centers have expressed "minimal challenges."

Compass Health Network, whose headquarters is in Jefferson City, is one of the seven call centers in Missouri. Michelle Horvath, Senior Director of Access & Urgent Care Services with Compass Health Network, said she never has a lack of people who want to answer the 988 calls.

"So we just overstaffed what we had just preparing for bandwidth," Horvath said. "And we were really fortunate to do that because our calls increased by a little over 50% on the very first month that 9-8-8 went live. And they've continued to climb."

Burrell Behavioral Health, which answers 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline calls for 17 counties in Missouri, including 10 counties in central Missouri, shared a statement with ABC 17.

"We are consistently seeing around 350 calls per month, and climbing. We feel this is proof that the 988 number is working – more calls means more lives saved," the statement reads.

There's been about a 30% increase in calls to the hotline from July 2022 to May.

According to data from the Department of Mental Health in 2013, 958 Missourians died by suicide. In 2022, 1,216 Missourians died by suicide. As of March this year, preliminary data shows 267 Missourians have died by suicide.

Kristie Morton founded You Matter, Archie after her son, Hunter, died by suicide in 2022. The advocacy group works to remind everyone in the rural Missouri town of Archie that they matter to the community and should speak up if something's bothering them.

Kristie Morton (center), her late son Hunter (left) and their family (Courtesy: Kristie Morton)

"We didn't have that access to the 988 number," Morton said. "And so a few months after he had passed and I think it was in July is when the number was launched, I called that myself."

Morton said she wanted to learn about how the state helps people through the crisis hotline. She was pleased to find out counselors that answer the hotline follow up with people after they've called and keep track of if someone calls multiple times.

"Unfortunately, with the rural areas, it's harder because we don't have that type of stuff," Morton said. "And so to have that 9-8-8 that number that's right there at their fingertips, it's so much easier."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts is encouraged to call the hotline at 988.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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