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New 988 emergency number will help folks in Shelby County with mental health crises

Shelby County leaders announced the new 988 number during a roundtable discussion on mental health Wednesday.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — About half of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives, according to Mental Health America.

That's why leaders in mental health from across Shelby County hosted a round table Wednesday to raise awareness for the support available in our community.

They discussed direct transport by first responders to mental care facilities, certified training of dispatchers who handle mental health, and a new 988 number to call when a loved one is having a crisis.

“It essentially will become the 911 for mental health. Right now, if people need certain services, they call 911,” said Mike Labonte Executive Director, Memphis Crisis Center. “They don’t call poison control or the fire department. They just call 911 and its routed appropriately. And so 988 will serve a similar purpose for mental health issues for people in crisis and for people are struggling with suicide.”

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris also joined Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner to announce an effort to embed trained mental health professionals with first responders. The program builds on the Shelby County Sheriff's Crisis Intervention Team and will be funded for at least three years using federal dollars.

According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms of serious anxiety or depressive disorder during the COVID pandemic, up from about 1 in 10 adults from the previous year.

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