COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – Officials with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health said the state has received one-time money to help their suicide prevention efforts.
This is all part of a $130 million national program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The money will be used to “enhance 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline services.”
They made the announcement at the South Carolina Suicide Prevention Coalition meeting Wednesday morning. State Department of Mental Health Director of Emergency Services Jennifer Butler said the state is getting a $1 million supplemental grant.
“Almost two-thirds of the money will go towards staffing for the call centers. The majority of that funding will go to Mental Health America of Greenville County to hire staff and some to Charleston-Dorchester which is coming online,” Butler said.
Currently, there is one national crisis lifeline call center in South Carolina. It’s operated and staffed by Mental Health America of Greenville County.
With the help of the grant, Butler said 10 staff members will be able to join the Upstate call center.
When 988 became operational for the national crisis line earlier this year, calls in South Carolina increased. Due to that increase in call volume, a higher percentage of calls to the lifeline were answered out of state.
There is no sustainable state funding to help support this call center at the moment.
The state Department of Mental Health is in the process of setting up a second call center in the Lowcountry. The money from the grant will help train staff for this call center.
Butler said they expect to have the call center in Charleston County operational in early 2023.
In the meantime, trained staff will be able to assist Mental Health America of Greenville County with answering calls at their 988 call center.
The goal is to make sure 100% of calls are answered in South Carolina and decrease wait times.
“When you have a call answered here that means the call taker will understand the mental health system and understand we have a mobile crisis unit for every county in the state,” Butler said.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also call SCDMH’s Mobile Crisis Team at 833-364-2274.