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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s newest mental health resource is now available to people statewide.  

Help is available by dialing just three digits, 988. You will immediately be in contact with a trained professional if you or someone you know is considering suicide or experiencing a mental health crisis.   

The 988 Helpline is the first step to a multi-level crisis response. 

The three-digit number component makes it easier for someone in a crisis to remember who to call.  

“We’ve expanded a little bit beyond what that original crisis line was supposed to be. Now you’re able to engage with mobile crisis services, where that’s available in the community, you’re able to have warm handoffs to actual providers in your area so that you can set up appointments and find those resources that are necessary,” said Jeff Dismukes, Director of Communications, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. 

The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to establish 988, and just this month, the Oklahoma line has responded to over 400 calls.  

According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, 80 percent of callers will experience resolution of crisis after interacting with the 988 Helpline. 

As an agency that regularly works with folks in a mental health crisis, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is helping the 988 hotline get the word out about this life saving program.   

“There’s also a follow up component to come back and work with these individuals to make sure that they make that leap… So, it’s important to follow up with them, find out what that barrier was, if they had a barrier to that treatment, and how can we overcome that? It’s important that we get people these services. These services absolutely work and could make a huge difference, not just for the families, but for our communities,” said Dismukes.

This is a 24/7 operation with licensed behavioral health providers and certified mental health crisis specialists. 

Behavioral health professionals will connect individuals with local resources whether you live in a rural or urban area of Oklahoma.  

“They’re trained to de-escalate the situation, to triage that call, to see, ‘Do we still need a 911 service response, or do we need a mobile crisis unit to go out there and meet those needs?’ Obviously, the push in America has been to eliminate a lot of police response to mental health crises,” said Gene Bradley, Lieutenant and Mental Health Coordinator, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.

“But it’s important when law enforcement doesn’t need to be engaged in – frankly, that’s probably in many instances – it’s a significant incentive for people to make that call when they know that doesn’t necessarily have to happen. And for many people, that might be the difference,” said Dismukes.  

With the recent national pressure to train officers on how to confront a mental health crisis situation, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s goal is to train all deputies on crisis intervention training, which is a 40-hour class with intensive and interactive scenarios.  

“That gives the deputies the opportunity to recognize when somebody might be facing a mental health crisis as opposed to whether they’re intoxicated or some combination of the two. And that really is what’s going to save lives,” said Aaron Brilbeck, PIO Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office.

Brilbeck says the goal is not to put people in jail who don’t belong in jail. 

“Oftentimes, deputies are put in very volatile situations where they have to make split second decisions that could save their lives or save somebody else’s lives. And to be able to recognize quickly, early on what exactly the problem is with the person that they’re dealing with makes it easier to find solutions to those problems,” said Brilbeck.   

If transportation is needed, a third-party contractor will provide free transportation to the nearest Urgent Recovery or Crisis Center for individuals who need it.