By Mike Cook
While people with suicidal thoughts are the largest group calling the new 988 emergency behavioral health services number, the line is open to callers dealing with “all forms of crisis,” said New Mexico Behavioral Health Services Division Director Dr. Neal Boren.
Boren was in Las Cruces Aug. 26 for a kickoff event helping to make the new three-digit number known to Doña Ana County residents.
The line, which is staffed 24/7/365, gives callers “access to the behavioral healthcare system,” Bowen said. It is available to people dealing with suicide ideation, substance abuse and developmental delay issues; he said, along with members of the LGBTQ community; people who are calling because they are concerned about a friend, a loved one or a coworker; and anyone who is needs help or a referral but doesn’t know who to call.
The line, which began service in July, provides trained counselors to answer callers’ questions and refer them to the services they need, Bowen said. 988 works in partnership with 911, which he said received its first call in Alabama in 1968. People who continue to call 911 may be transferred to a 988 counselor, he said, if that is a more appropriate response.
“No mental health concern is too big,” Bowen said. “No crisis is too small.”
The 988 number is staffed by “trained, compassionate people,” said county Health and Human Services Department Director Jamie Michael.
In Doña Ana County, a 988 call could, depending on the circumstances, connect the caller to county Crisis Triage Center (CTC) services and the county’s mobile crisis unit, said CTC Site Director Karina Diaz.
Diaz said CTC, which opened in July 2021, welcomes anyone in “any emotional state you feel is crisis.” There is no charge for CTC services, she said, which includes peer support specialists and licensed behavioral health providers. CTC is located at 850B Copper Loop in Las Cruces. Visit https://riinternational.com/listing/dona-ana-crisis-triage-center/.
Others speaking included Marleigh O’Meara, regional vice president of RI International, which is the company that operates the CTC; Albert Flores of the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch authority, the county’s 911 call center; and Mateo Ortega, director of operations for FYI+ of Las Cruces, who is a member of the LC3 behavioral health collaborative.
Providers with tables at the event included Mesilla Valley Hospital, Las Cruces Vet Center, FYI+, Southwest New Mexico NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Zia Recovery Center, Peak Behavioral Health, Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, Doña Ana County Health and Human Services Department, Aprendamos early intervention program, New Hope Therapy Center, Ben Archer health clinic, La Clinica de Familia, CTC and Southwest Family Guidance Center.
Others attending the event included Doña Ana County Commissioner Manuel Sanchez, County Sheriff Kim Stewart, State Rep. Joanne Ferrary and Mayor Pro Tempore Kasandra Gandara.