No. 988 replaces the national suicide hotline to make it easier for people to remember how to get help if they or a loved one is experiencing mental health concerns.

This nationwide 24/7 number launched in July 2022 and connects people directly with a mental health professional. A crisis can include suicidal thoughts, mental health or substance use crisis, or other types of emotional distress.

No need to try to figure out if the situation is bad enough. If there are any concerns, call or text.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports:

• In 2020 alone, the United States had a suicide death about every 11 minutes

• For people aged 10-34, suicide is the leading cause of death and

• From April 2020 to 2021, over 100,000 individuals died of drug overdoses

Sadly, I remember the days when someone was suicidal at our treatment center and our only option was to call the police. While the police were very respectful, the procedure was to handcuff them and take them out to their squad car to transport them to a crisis center.

While we knew it would save that person’s life at that moment, the process did not instill dignity and respect. It reinforced the shame and stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders. Often with the cooperation of the police officers we would meet at the back door in the alley, so that the person would not be embarrassed by walking in handcuffs to the reception area.

Today, we understand more about substance use disorders and other mental health issues. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) is collaborating with multiple partners across the state and nation to build a comprehensive crisis response continuum to provide immediate access to help when an Oklahoman is experiences a mental health crisis.

With 988, about 80% of callers will experience crisis resolution by speaking with a mental health professional. When necessary, if the crisis is not resolved through a phone call, the call center will dispatch mobile crisis teams around the country for further assessment and intervention.

Approximately 70% of these crisis situations will be resolved at this point. Mental health professionals will schedule same-day or next-day follow-up appointments with local community mental and behavioral health centers.

Each law enforcement officer will have 24/7 access to a licensed behavioral health professional to assist in assessment, evaluation and linkage to treatment. In Oklahoma, police officers make over 20,000 trips a year to help someone in need of mental health crisis services. This model allows private companies to supply transportation to a crisis center when it is more than 30 miles away.

Over 1,200 officers have been trained in Oklahoma in Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), a 40-hour training course for police officers sponsored by ODMHSAS with support from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. CIT is intensive mental health training and includes scenarios based on actual mental health calls for service.

According to the City of Norman, our police department currently has 53 commissioned officers, eight communications officers, one fire inspector and one municipal court officer who are CIT trained.

As we work together, more people will be connected to the help they need. Lives will be saved. We will let people know that there is no shame in asking for help and help is available 24/7.

For more information, visit or

Teresa Collado, MHR, is the executive director of Virtue Center, a Norman Street United Partner agency funded in part by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Their mission is to be a place of help and hope for people facing addiction and mental health challenges. For more information, contact 405-321-0022 or visit

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