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By Suzanne Potter, California News Service

July 22, 2022 (San Diego) -- Starting now, people contemplating suicide or families experiencing a mental health crisis can call 988 instead of 911, and get the help they need.

The new 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline funnels callers to 13 mental health agencies across the state. Trained operators can connect people with suicide crisis counseling and mental-health de-escalation counseling over the phone.

Dr. Lisa Pion-Berlin, president and CEO of Parents Anonymous, which runs the California Parent and Youth Helpline, applauds the effort.

"They're also trying to avoid police intervention," Pion-Berlin pointed out. "They want a mental-health intervention, because when we've had police intervention, they're not trained to handle mental-health problems and some tragedy happens."

Many jurisdictions, including Los Angeles County, will dispatch a mobile crisis team to the scene, if appropriate. If a family issue is less urgent, the Lifeline has already begun passing callers along to the California Parent and Youth Helpline. The number, which people can call or text, is 855-427-2736.

Dr. Pion-Berlin explained Parents Anonymous launched the California Parent and Youth Helpline in 2020 to connect families with trained counselors and free online support groups.

"They call us because they want to talk to us as a parent," Pion-Berlin observed. "Or they are having an emotional meltdown because their child is acting out, or they got kicked out of school, or they got arrested. You can call us."

The state of California is spending $20 million to support the 988 Lifeline in the Golden State. The new state budget funds the California Parent and Youth Helpline at $1.6 million a year for three years.


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