Counselors fear closure of Minnesota's last suicide prevention hotline

- Every day, counselors at the Crisis Connection answer calls from people who are at their wit's end. But now, the suicide prevention hotline that's been around for nearly 50 years could be at the end of the road.

Crisis Connection is the only suicide prevention hotline in the state that answers calls from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. But Canvas Health says the call center could close on May 21 if it doesn't get nearly $1 million in funding to keep it open for another year.

"It’s commonly misunderstood that the state provides funding. That is not true," said Thomas Ruter with Canvas Health. "The state does not provide funding for ongoing operation of Crisis Connections. We do have some contracts that supplement the work and service done there, but the majority of the work is paid for by contracts, donations and fundraising."

Crisis Connection handles about 52,000 calls a year, with nearly half of callers experiencing mental health crisis, while about 10 percent are actively thinking about committing suicide.

If the 24-hour hotline were to close, Canvas Health says those calls would probably go to 911 or hospital emergency rooms. 

But some could end up out of state, where call centers would be unfamiliar with local resources and cultural nuances.

“We believe this service is a part of Minnesota's safety net and should be paid for as such," Ruter said.

At a time when suicide rates across the country are on the rise, Canvas Health says it would be a shame to pull the plug on a place where a call for help can mean the difference between life and death.

"We know that those services help save a life, direct people to the resources that are available to them and assist people when they are at their greatest need," Ruter said. "Crisis Connection is an efficient use of the resources of the state of Minnesota. It is a single call center that services the entire state. Our staff are trained in therapy and are mental health professionals. We serve people 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, weekends and holidays."

Canvas Health says there are two bills at the state legislature to fund the crisis connection, but it’s not clear if they will get out of committee for a floor vote before the session ends.

At the same time as Crisis Connection is contemplating its future Minnesota also announced it now has a statewide, 24/7 text-for-help service for people contemplating suicide and facing mental health issues. As of April 1, 2018 people who text MN to 741741 will be connected with a trained counselor who will help them through a crisis and connect them to local resources. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you believe someone is at risk of suicide:

- Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. (This will not put the idea into their heads, or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.)

- Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

- Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

- If possible, do not leave the person alone.

RESOURCES

http://www.samhsa.gov/nssp

http://www.actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/NSSP

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

http://www.sprc.org

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