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The Rutgers University National Behavioral Health Care Call Center will play an important role when the new national mental health helpline – dial 988 – launches July 16.

The center has been selected to serve as one of 12 national relief centers that will triage overflow calls, ensuring that those who reach out find a voice on the other end of their call.

The line was created to serve as an alternative to calling 911 or law enforcement in the event of a mental health crisis.

With the new helpline, people experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis can dial or text the three-digit number 24/7 to connect immediately with qualified counselors who will assess the call and provide support, risk assessment, safety planning and referral to local mental health treatment services or resources.

The hotline, which was mandated by the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 and funded by the Addiction and Mental Health Services Administrationconnects to the existing network of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Crisis Centers (800-273-TALK).

According to SAMHSA, there is approximately one death by suicide in the country every 11 minutes and approximately 12 million people report seriously considering suicide each year. More than 3 million people contact the lifeline each year – a number experts expect to increase when 988 goes live.

William Zimmerman, program manager for the New Jersey Hope Line and the new Lifeline National Rescue Center, said Rutgers had the experience to handle the situation.

“Rutgers has operated the New Jersey Hopeline, the state’s suicide prevention hotline, for the past nine years and has experience responding to those calls,” he said. . “The potential advantage of the 988 is enormous. During a crisis, prompt access to support and care can prevent death by suicide. This number will also help better reach underserved populations, such as in rural areas and communities of color, which may lack mental health services.

The Lifeline is made up of a network of more than 200 state and local government-funded crisis centers across the United States. Calls are routed to the nearest center based on the area code.

“However, not all areas have a crisis center, and not all centers operate 24/7,” Zimmerman said. “If a local crisis center is unable to take the call, the caller will automatically be routed to Rutgers or another national backup crisis center.”