988 mental health hotline could be a lifeline for people with disabilities

Published: Wednesday, July 20, 2022 - 11:06am
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Over the weekend, the first nationwide mental health crisis hotline went live. The system will now connect callers with trained mental health counselors. It’s a big deal, especially for those in the disability community. 

Jon Meyers is the executive director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. 

He says 988 has the potential to help people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are in crisis. 

"One of the biggest problems is that there aren't a lot of trained professionals anywhere in Arizona or really around the country. And there definitely isn't a good system in place to provide crisis response for people who are facing these mental health challenges," Meyers said. 

Currently, many caregivers resort to calling the police.

"And law enforcement is not necessarily the appropriate response or the appropriate group of people to be responding," he said. 

He and other stakeholders have been working to make sure those counselors are trained to address the needs of people with IDD. 

"Our hope is that with this new 988 system, the individuals who are manning the phones, the individuals who are responding to the calls that come in, will know precisely who should be brought in, whether that's a counselor, whether that's a service provider, or whatever profession that person has, they will know who those right people are and they will not automatically default to law enforcement or default to another resource that's not the most appropriate one for the situation," Meyers said. 

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.