COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – The nonprofit organization answering calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline made by South Carolinians said they need sustainable funding beginning next month.
Starting July 16th, you’ll be able to dial 988 to reach the crisis hotline. Mental Health America of Greenville County said they expect calls for help to increase anywhere from 4 to 10 times more than their current call volume.
To keep up with that demand, Executive Director Jennifer Piven said they need additional funding to add more staff.
“We have just hit our seventh month of 80-percent answer rate for calls. But all our planning funds are going away,” Piven said. Their operating budget for the call center last year was $1.3 million.
She said if they don’t come up with the money, she anticipates they’ll be able to answer 10-to-13% of the calls, texts, and chats coming in after the increase in calls. Any unanswered call will be redirected to a national backup call center.
Piven said, “They’ll be in our queue for about three minutes and be routed out. Are our youth going to wait that three minutes? Are they going to stay on the phone? That is where our greatest concern is.”
According to Piven, they’re applying for grants and have started a fundraiser.
State lawmakers did not pass legislation this year to create a sustainable funding mechanism to support the call center. Lawmakers are considering funding a second 988 call center in South Carolina.
The Senate’s version of the budget included over $1 million for this. A Budget Conference Committee is currently working on a budget compromise, so it’s unclear whether or not this second center will be funded this upcoming fiscal year.
For more information on Mental Health America of Greenville County and their efforts click or tap here.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts you can get free and confidential support 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.