KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From now on, anyone in Johnson County who calls the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will speak directly to a licensed mental health professional in their own backyard.
It’s a move the center said has cut down on wait times and provided a direct connection to local resources. Johnson County Mental Health made the transition official on Aug. 27.
“This is an example of how we are using data to make better decisions for our community,” said Rob MacDougall, director of emergency services at Johnson County Mental Health Center. “We looked at the numbers for the national hotline and knew that we had the capacity to pick up the calls coming from Johnson County.”
In the first three weeks of taking on those calls, the center averaged 33 calls per week, in addition to the 542 calls that came to the center’s already existing 24/7 Crisis Line.
“What I think we’re finding is that people are in need of long-term coordination of care and long-term treatment resources. So, suicide isn’t just an episodic moment a lot of the time, it’s something people can be experiencing chronically,” said Andy Massey, licensed master social worker with Johnson County Mental Health’s Crisis Assessment Team.
And when an individual is connected to someone locally, there’s an added benefit of local knowledge and a sense of community.
“People just really need to know that they’re not alone in that crisis but there is always somebody who can be there with them — you bear witness, you support, you listen and you help them figure out if there’s something they can do to make things better,” said Kris Winegar, Johnson County Mental Health team leader.
Licensed clinicians who answer those calls hope that just knowing the person on the line will reach someone who knows the area and resources may give them the extra courage needed to reach out for help.
“I think that it always bothered us knowing that there could be people who are local that were needing resources or support or whatever and they were getting routed somewhere else and we didn’t even know,” Winegar said. “Just being able to relate to people on a more personal level because we’re all kind of in the same community.“
If you or someone you know is experiencing any sort of mental health crisis, it’s important to know you are never alone and there is a network for people and services that can help provide support.
If you need someone to talk to, resources or coping strategies, the number to the Johnson County Mental Health 24/7 Crisis Line is (913) 268-0156. That line is answered by the same team of people who are now answering local calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week.