“After hearing her story, we were able to highlight her strengths in each moment and reflect on them in a new light,” Stone said. “It was through this newfound recognition that I began to hear hope growing in her tone of voice.”
Moments like these have occurred throughout the past six months as Memorial Behavioral Health counselors answer local calls to the nationwide 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This service, intended as “911 for mental health,” was created by the U.S. Congress in 2020 as a successor to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It was launched across the country in July 2022.
MBH crisis counselors answer 988 calls from anyone with a 217 area code. The service complements MBH’s other crisis response programs, including the crisis services available at the Eighth Street Clinic in Springfield and the Mobile Crisis Response teams.
“The goal of 988 is to make it easier for people across the country to access mental health resources in times of crisis,” said Diana Knaebe, president of Memorial Behavioral Health. “We’re pleased to be able to offer this service in central Illinois and connect our local residents with the care they need.”
Since 988 launched in July, Memorial Behavioral Health has answered 366 calls from local residents, with around half of callers reporting they live in Sangamon County.
During the past six months, Memorial Behavioral Health staff provided 89% of callers with the help they needed over the phone including follow-up calls if desired. A small percentage of callers required more intensive services. Around 6% of callers were referred to the MBH Mobile Crisis Response team, which responds in person to mental health crises. Emergency services are contacted only if staff determine there is an immediate danger to the caller or others.
“We are focused not only on providing the support the caller needs in the moment, but also connecting them with follow-up care if they are open to receiving it,” Knaebe said. “That might mean scheduling an in-person visit with a mental health professional or simply agreeing to a follow-up call from the counselor they spoke with during their initial call to 988.”
For counselors like Stone, the opportunity to help people in their most difficult hours is rewarding. “These are the very moments that make this job worth it, the knowledge that although you were just a small part of their journey, you were influential enough to make a big impact on their lives,” she said.