During my time as mayor of Oklahoma City, one of our greatest challenges was to address a major public health crisis – obesity. Today, Oklahomans face an even greater public health crisis that leaves many individuals feeling like they have nowhere to turn for help.
According to data from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), 4.1% of adults in Oklahoma had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, while one in 10 students reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months. Each week, approximately 300 Oklahomans are admitted for urgent care or crisis mental health services.
Thousands of Oklahomans face the reality of living with mental illness, however, with the 988 Mental Health Lifeline launching this summer, Oklahomans will have 24/7 access to the mental health support they need.
Approved by the Federal Communications Commission, 988 replaces the 11-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. The change came after mental health and suicide prevention advocates asked Congress for a shorter, easier-to-remember number for individuals in crisis.
ODMHSAS is leading this statewide rollout of the mental health lifeline, and the agency will soon offer a comprehensive crisis response system to accompany the call center. The comprehensive program will include mobile crisis response, crisis receiving and stabilization services and follow-up appointments.
Eventually, the center will integrate with the 911 system, as so many 911 calls are mental health related. Oklahoma’s 988 annual call volume is estimated to exceed 100,000 and reach nearly 500,000 when accounting for 911 crisis calls and other local crisis calls.
Recently, ODMHSAS announced that Solari Crisis & Human Services will operate the statewide call center. Solari has helped thousands of individuals and families connect to help through their crisis call centers in other states and maintains some of the top-performing hotlines in the country.
Solari offers a continuum of crisis and human services, including a 24/7 peer-support Warm Line, Serious Mental Illness (SMI) determinations, dispatch services and other in-kind services to the community. As part of its efforts, Solari is in the process of establishing an Oklahoma City location and will be hiring 31 positions.
Note: Mick Cornett is Executive Counsel at Jones PR, was the first Oklahoma City Mayor to win four consecutive terms and had a successful 20-year Journalism career. He authored ‘The Next American City’ book, and has appeared over 200 times on television interviews. His TED Talk has been viewed more than 1.5 million times.