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988 Crisis Line Starts Saturday In New Mexico

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988 New Mexico
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A new emergency line to help prevent people from committing suicide and in need of other help goes in effect in New Mexico on Saturday.

The 988 emergency number will be more than a suicide hotline. It will be able to be used by loved ones who are worried about someone’s safety. It will connect callers to a veterans crisis line or a local crisis center.

Dr. Neal Bowen is Director of the New Mexico Behavioral Health Services Division. He presented the program to the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee on Monday.   

He says the new system will be a great benefit to people suffering from mental health problems.

“I was a provider in the state for many years…and one of the things that have been unfortunately very clear is that behavioral health crisis is a predictable part of serious mental illness and of substance use disorders but it has far too often been an opportunity for disruption in care,” he said. “One of the main goals that we have in building up the 988 Crisis Now System is to make behavioral crisis into an opportunity for better coordination of care rather than disruption.”

The call centers will be operated by behavioral health providers.

The Health Services Division is asking lawmakers to pass a 20-cents monthly fee on telephone lines in New Mexico to help pay for the 988 program.

The fee can be embedded in an overall 988 legislative package establishing a 988 line structure and authority. 

Kevin Meerschaert comes to Santa Fe from Jacksonville, Florida where he spent the past 20 years covering politics, government and pretty much everything else.