SPRINGFIELD — Staff at Memorial Behavioral Health in Springfield, Illinois, are on call around the clock to talk with people struggling with suicidal thoughts, drug addiction or other mental health crises….Until recently, the hospital’s call center was operated 24/7 by on-call nurses and other clinical staff. But at times when everyone was tied up with patients, calls would go unanswered, bumping the caller to the nearest available call center. “Staff would answer the phone 24/7, but if they were busy with intakes or with residents … then they wouldn’t be available to take the call,” said Diana Knaebe, president and system administrator of Memorial Behavioral Health. Across the state, Illinois-based call centers answered just 1 in 5 in-state calls to the lifeline in the first three months of 2022. The other 80 percent were redirected to other states. Illinois has the lowest in-state answer rate in the nation, lagging far behind others. The state with the second-lowest rate, Texas, answered 40 percent of its calls during that same time period….The center has since received federal funding to beef up their call center. It’s part of the rollout of a new national mental health crisis number, 988, that proponents hope will make it easier for more people to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help starting July 16. Knaebe said the new funding enabled Memorial to switch to staffing the crisis line with dedicated employees instead of on-call hospital staff. Even though they’ve still got several open positions they’re trying to fill, she said they’ve already seen big improvements in their answer rate.




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