COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – Officials with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health say the state has received one-time money to help prevent suicides.
It’s all part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) $130 million national program. The money will be used to “‘”enhance 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline services.”
They made the announcement at a meeting of the South Carolina Coalition for Suicide Prevention Wednesday morning. State Department of Mental Health Emergency Services Director Jennifer Butler said the state is receiving an additional $1 million grant.
“Almost two-thirds of the money will be used to equip call centers. Most of that funding will go to Mental Health America of Greenville County to hire staff, and some of that funding will go to Charleston-Dorchester, which is coming out of the network,” Butler said.
South Carolina currently has one national emergency call center. It is operated and staffed by Mental Health America of Greenville County.
Butler said the grant will allow 10 employees to join the upstate call center.
When the 988 number became operational for the national crisis line earlier this year, calls in South Carolina increased. Because of this increase in calls, a higher percentage of calls to the helpline were received out of state.
No sustainable public funding to help support this call center at this time.
The state Department of Mental Health is in the process of establishing a second call center in the Lowcountry. The grant money will help train staff for this call center.
Butler said they expect the call center in Charleston County to be operational in early 2023.
In the meantime, trained staff will be able to assist Mental Health America of Greenville County by answering calls to their 988 call center.
The goal is to answer 100% of calls in South Carolina and reduce wait times.
“If you get a call answered here, that means the caller will understand the mental health system and understand that we have a mobile crisis point for every county in the state,” Butler said.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988. You can also call the SCDMH Mobile Emergency Response Team at 833-364-2274.