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Suicide prevention advocates push for changes in Michigan

Posted at 7:14 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-19 16:35:59-04

LANSING, Mich. — “Suicide can be prevented.” That was the message today from advocates at the state’s capitol where the new National Suicide Prevention hot line 988 was discussed. Advocates asked legislators to support a better crisis response infrastructure in Michigan that will be needed by July 16, when the new number will be operating.

The current number, 1-800-273-8255, is still active and will remain open during and after the transition.

“For me, (suicide prevention) is very important,” said Jim Adams, a board member at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “I lost my 18-year-old son Morgan to suicide in 2012. He was very outspoken about social justice issues. So today, I’m going to be his voice.”

Advocates from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention asked for more funding and support of the Department of Health and Human Services efforts to expand Michigan’s Crisis and Access Line.

MiCAL has the goal to provide statewide coverage after transitioning to 988.

Adams said, an increase in calls with the new and shorter number is to be expected. With an increased number of calls, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention advocates for 24/7 call centers, mobile crisis response teams, and stabilization centers in Michigan.

“In Michigan, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death,” Adams said. “Even for my son who was 18 at the time, it’s the second leading cause of death. So, teenagers are very, very susceptible to this. And the sad thing about it is suicide is preventable.” He said we should not be having the number of deaths caused by suicide that we currently have in Michigan.

State legislators were asked to join the leading efforts of state representative Mary Whiteford and MDHHS.

“The Department of Health and Human Services is very actively involved in the rollout of crisis access, opportunities, and very invested in building out the 988 work within the state,” said Debra Pinals, the medical director of Behavioral Health and Forensic Programs at MDHHS. She says there will be an integration of the 988 activity and the MiCAL line. “Depending on how the legislative process unfolds, you know that that is what we're hoping for is ongoing effort, ongoing support of making suicide prevention, something that's accessible to people.”

Advocates can already see a positive impact.

“I work with a wide variety of students, and I see the positive effects that the bill would have in the future, if we're able to have that 988 crisis line and have a very specific crisis line just for mental health,” said Marissa Gawel, a social worker and mental health specialist at Howell Public Schools.

According to Adams, the worst-case scenario is calls that are going unanswered. “It's someone that's in a crisis, who needs who needs the help the most. So, we don't want that to happen when 988 rolls out," Adams said.

If you or someone you know is suffering and in need to talk to someone, don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255.

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