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Ohio officials have submitted a plan to the federal government to implement a statewide “988” National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 22 this year.

The new system “is designed to better connect crisis care services with individuals and families experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis,” according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services which is in charge of setting up the new system. “Ohio evidence suggests that the precursors to needing crisis care and related problems remain at high levels throughout the state.”

A new emergency number is similar to the familiar “911,” but is specifically designed to summon help for people in a mental health or suicidal crisis. Callers will be connected through call centers to trained personnel and other resources.

In researching the setup plan, state officials gathered statistics on suicides and attempted suicides going back 10 years in some cases.

One finding was that the pattern of suicides does not necessarily correlate to the state’s highest population centers: Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo. Instead, “the highest proportions of suicide are occurring in the Appalachian and northwest regions of the state,” the report says.

Overall, there was a 27 percent increase in the number of suicides in Ohio between 2010 and 2019. That represents 12.31 suicides per 100,000 populations in 2010 compared to 15.49 suicides per 100,000 populations in 2019.  However, both rates were below national numbers.

The report also notes that some groups of people were at a higher risk of suicide than others, specifically “those with only a high school education or less and those who are divorced are at an elevated risk for suicide.  Also, it is worthy of note that men are almost four times more likely to attempt and complete suicide than women.”

Young people, in general, are particularly susceptible to ideas of suicide, the state report said, due to being bullied (32 percent), experiencing anxiety (27 percent), and having depression or anxiety (21 percent).

Ohio’s Lifeline provider network will cover all 88 counties. Currently, 22 counties do not have any Lifeline provider service.

The first $400 million to pay for the network has been provided by the federal government, but ongoing funding has yet to be determined. The current network of crisis lines is funded by a patchwork of government, private and non-profit sources.

Information on the 988 plan is online here: https://mha.ohio.gov/about-us/priorities/ohios-988-implementation

Written by: Alan Johnson, NAMI Ohio