‘You’re not alone’: NCDHHS Secretary talks about increased use of 988 and the push for more affordable mental health services

‘You’re not alone’: NCDHHS Secretary talks about increased use of 988 and the push for more affordable mental health services
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 9:11 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It’s been more than a month since the rollout of 988, the national suicide and crisis hotline. Kody Kinsley, NC DHHS Secretary, says 89% of callers within this first month are reaching out for the first time.

“When people are in crisis, that’s not the moment when they should try to figure out exactly what number they need to call, they shouldn’t be fumbling through their insurance cards. Having one number that anybody can call that’s easy, is great,” Kinsley said. “These are people who didn’t know this resource existed before and now they do, and they’re making use of it and they’re getting connected to care in various ways.”

Kinsley added that he is now pushing to expand Medicaid and have more affordable mental health services in the state of North Carolina.

“We’ve got over a million people in North Carolina without health insurance. I am thrilled that now we have an easy number for everyone to remember that they can call to get that crisis counseling, de escalation, talk to someone who has been in their shoes before to understand what they’re going through. But you know, mental health care, just like any other health care requires ongoing services and treatment. And when you don’t have resources to pay for that treatment, then you’re not going to get that treatment that you need,” Kinsley said. “One in five people will have a mental health need in a given year, and most of those people will not have the resources necessary to get the treatment that they need, we have got to close the coverage gap, we have got to draw down free resources in DC to help support people here in North Carolina, to get us out of this mental health crisis.”

Later this month the DHHS will be releasing a new suicide action plan, which will be an update to a plan released several years ago. Kinsley said that 988 is now a key component of this new plan.

“I think some people don’t realize that, that among individuals ages 10 to 64, that suicide is actually the fifth leading cause of death. And among individuals aged 10 to 18. So, our youth suicide is actually the second leading cause of death in North Carolina. You know, those are really striking numbers. And so if, from a public health perspective, if we want to try to improve our experiences here in North Carolina, focusing with action on trying to combat suicide is really important. And so that plan that will be coming out later this month, will showcase strategies like leveraging 90 Day closing the coverage gap, getting people connected to care and services as a concerted effort for us to really make a meaningful difference and save lives here in North Carolina,” Kinsley said.