The Mental Health Association of New Jersey is making certain that local calls made to the National Suicide Helpline will be automatically routed to behavioral specialists based in New Jersey. Calls made between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. will be handled by the NJ MentalHealthCares Helpline.
Until recently only a limited number of in-state calls were fielded locally.
Renee Burawski, MHANJ’s director of training and information services, said that answering the calls in state has multiple benefits, including quicker response time and more direct access to intervention.
"Personnel from outside the state don't know the subtle nuances and the types of services that are offered in New Jersey," Burawski said. "We have a full time database manager who keeps on top of all of the services that are in New Jersey."
Calls that are answered out of state would typically refer callers to a hospital psychiatric screening center.
The new initiative was created in part because New Jersey healthcare professionals have not been answering all the calls that originate locally. According to Burawski, three crisis centers were already on board with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, but they covered a limited geographic area and had limited hours.
"This is a first step toward having all suicide calls answered in our home state. We will be applying for the state contract to increase this service when the state launches the new protocol," said Carolyn Beauchamp, president of the Mental Health Association of New Jersey.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK/800-273-8255) provides free emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.