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Local News

For Some, State’s Hotline May Be Better Option Than New 988 National Suicide Lifeline

Credit: iStock

Annmarie Timmins

Beginning Saturday, help for mental health crises will be available nationwide, 24/7, via a three-digit call or text to 988. But for Granite Staters without 603 phone numbers, that may not be the best option, especially if they need immediate help.

The new federal 988 system routes callers to the crisis center closest to their area code, not their physical location. If a person with an out-of-state number wants to quickly reach New Hampshire’s crisis center, which can deploy assistance to a person immediately, the state advises they call the hotline directly, at 1-833-710-6477.

The state launched its New Hampshire Rapid Response hotline in January as part of a broad response to a mental health crisis that was exacerbated by the pandemic, leaving as many as 30 adults and 50 children waiting in emergency rooms for an inpatient treatment bed.

The state’s hotline is meant to divert people from emergency rooms when they need immediate help but not that level of intervention. Operators can provide a range of immediate assistance that’s more appropriate for a caller’s level of need.

Sometimes that’s a conversation or help making an appointment to see a clinician at their local community mental health center the next day. Other times, it may require deployment of one of the mobile crisis response teams located throughout the state. In most serious cases, callers who need something more are still directed to emergency rooms.

Once the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline launches Saturday, callers with 603 area codes will be routed to the state’s call center. Those who don’t will be sent elsewhere, to a call center within their area code that can’t dispatch a response team or make them an appointment with their community mental health center.

Heath and Human Services suggests those callers dial or text the New Hampshire line directly. The website, nh988.com, also has a chat function.

“For a local response every time, call NH Rapid Response,” says a department flier about the new national hotline.

Between the rapid response line’s January launch and May, the most recent data window available, operators have deployed mobile crisis response teams 2,840 times, said Jake Leon, Health and Human Services spokesman. Forty percent of those deployments were for children, Leon said. Of the more than 11,221 calls, texts, or chats, 20 percent came from people under 18.

While the state’s hotline and mobile crisis response teams have connected people with more appropriate care than an emergency room can provide, many are still waiting in emergency rooms for an inpatient bed.

As of Thursday, that included 25 adults, according to the state’s tracker. Nine children were also awaiting a treatment bed, though not necessarily while in an emergency room, a number that is more than half the 16 beds available for children in the state.

This story was written by Annmarie Timmins, a senior reporter at the New Hampshire Bulletin, where this story first appeared.