Last summer, both Foundation 2 Crisis Services in Cedar Rapids and CommUnity Crisis Services in Iowa City were tapped as centers designated to answer phone-calls made to the newly established "988" hotline in the United States. The hotline itself was launched on July 16th, 2022, and getting awareness out has been of top priority for first responders.

988 serves as the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. It's a toll-free number available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. When called, the caller is routed to the nearest crisis center o receive immediate counseling as well as referrals to local mental health clinics. You can also phone the hotline if someone you know is suffering a mental health crisis.

The Dubuque County Sheriff's Office is doing their part to drum up awareness for the hotline. As of July 25th, all Sheriff patrol vehicles have decals with the phone number on their trunks, per the Sheriff's office's Facebook page:

The Sheriff's Office patrol vehicles are sporting some new decals! We want to remind people who may be experiencing a brain health crisis to dial 988, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Every life has value, some just have trouble seeing that within themselves. The 988 hotline can help point those in need in the right direction to receive assistance. Thanks, and stay safe!

Last year, a director at Linn County's National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 77% of people didn't know about the phone number within a month of its launch. The hotline is multi-dimensional as well. It not only allows calls but also connection to a crisis counselor via Lifeline chat, which is under the umbrella of Suicide Prevention.

I've seen first-hand that mental illness is as real as a broken leg. Mental breakdowns can be as scary as any other situation that requires medical attention. The stigma is being shattered with each passing day. The access to help is becoming unprecedented. There's more work to be done, but having a three-digit phone number to call is an enormous step in the right direction.

Kudos to the Dubuque County Sheriff's Office for placing the decals on their patrol vehicles. Let's hope organizations continue finding the committed professionals they need in order to operate and continue saving precious lives.

Dialing 9-8-8 will put you in contact with a crisis counselor. Find out more about the number on its official website.

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