In the first year of launching 988, Alabama expands access to behavioral health care

Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 1:50 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - In July of 2022, the suicide hotline number was changed to 988. It reduced the number from 10 digits to three, making it easier to remember when in a crisis.

Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Kim Boswell, said in the first year of 988 going live, the number of answered calls and texts has nearly doubled.

“You can get to someone who can really help you if you are having a family crisis, or whatever the situation may be, having that compassionate person on the other end of the line that you can talk to is really important,” said Boswell.

The state launched three call centers to answer the 988 calls in Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville with plans for two more to go live in the coming months.

Before 988, Boswell said the call centers didn’t have the right amount of resources and some calls even went unanswered.

Boswell said the launch of 988 helped advance the state’s goal of expanding access to behavioral health care that’s available 24/7. Part of that goal was the opening of three crisis care centers. The ribbon was cut for the center in Birmingham in January.

“Really getting people to those Crisis Centers or mobile Crisis Units which are also available. This (988) really became the entry point in access to care for that system.”

While proud of the progress made in this past year, Boswell looks forward to continuing to expand that access to care.

“What we would love to see is crisis services available in all 67 counties in Alabama because we really believe every Alabamian is entitled to access to quality behavioral health care,” said Boswell.

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