INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana officials have announced an investment of more than $100 million to expand mental health services. Some of that funding will go toward the new 988 mental health crisis hotline, which launches Saturday nationwide.

The 988 hotline has been described as the mental health version of 911. Starting Saturday, anyone in the country can dial 988 and be connected with trained crisis specialist with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24/7.

Experts say the need for mental health services has increased since the pandemic began. On the north side of Indianapolis, Recovery Centers of America opened a new treatment center in late 2020. Just last month, it expanded beyond addiction recovery to offer other mental health services.

“We knew that that needed to be expanded when not just overdoses were increasing but also suicide rates and the occurrence of mental health disorders,” said Stephanie Anderson, CEO of Recovery Centers of America at Indianapolis.

It’s estimated half of all Americans are struggling with a mental health condition, Anderson said. And in Indiana, it’s possible that number is even higher.

“We also know that unfortunately Indiana has a high suicide rate compared to the rest of the country,” said Gil Peri, president of Riley Children’s Health.

Indiana officials say they hope the new 988 mental health crisis hotline will make an impact.

“By making this an easy, three-digit number, more individuals will reach out for help when they need it,” said Dr. Dan Rusyniak, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA).

To handle the increased volume, the state invested about $50 million dollars in federal funding toward the 988 launch and are increasing the number of Indiana’s suicide prevention call centers from three to five, according to FSSA officials.

Indiana’s call centers for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline currently answer about 75% of in-state calls made to the phone line, according to Chris Drapeau of the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction. The rest go to a national backup line, with counselors answering from other states.

The goal is to have in-state counselors answering 90% of Indiana calls by this time next year, Drapeau said.

“From our perspective, the time and the work that we’ve been doing since 2019 with the centers has prepared us as well as we can be,” Rusyniak said.

The state is also launching several other mental health initiatives, mostly using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan. One new program expands counseling services at pediatric care centers across Indiana.

“We know that about 300,000 kids in the state of Indiana are currently suffering from these conditions, and we as a state have to do better,” Peri said.

FSSA’s goal is to eventually expand the 988 service to include a response team and locations where Hoosiers can find services.

State lawmakers have said they’re looking into ways to increase funding for the 988 hotline and further expand mental health services in the future. 

You can still call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

You can also reach Indiana’s Be Well Crisis Helpline by dialing 211.

For more mental health resources, click here.