Little announces 3-digit suicide hotline in Idaho

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Brad Little announced that Idahoans in crisis now are able to dial a three-digit phone number, 211, to connect with the state’s suicide prevention hotline.

BOISE — Idahoans in crisis now are able to dial an easy-to-remember, three-digit phone number to connect with the state’s suicide prevention hotline, making the service more accessible to people in need.

The change was due to a partnership between the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline and the 211 Idaho CareLine, which Gov. Brad Little announced during a press conference Tuesday afternoon in his office at the state Capitol.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Idahoans aged 15 to 34, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

“The statistic about Idaho and suicide is something none of us are proud of,” Little said. “But we have to continue to do all of these incremental things to help with mental illness challenges all over the state of Idaho, whether they be in our grade-school kids or whether they be in senior citizens and everybody in between.”

In the past, people seeking help would have to use the hotline’s 10-digit number, 208-398-4357.

Now, they just have to dial 211 and then press three when prompted, putting them in direct contact with someone specially trained in detecting certain warning signs in callers.

Sen. Fred Martin, R-Boise, said if people previously called the 211 CareLine — which also connects Idahoans to other health and human services such as rental assistance or Medicaid — the operator would have to provide them with the number for the state hotline, encourage them to call and then hang up.

“That was not acceptable for me or those working there,” said Martin, who helped facilitate the change. “For years, I’ve wanted a three-digit number for the suicide hotline in Idaho. I can remember a three-digit number.”

The new partnership eliminates that extra step and allows for a 211 operator to transfer a call to the state’s suicide prevention hotline if needed.

In 2019, 211 Idaho CareLine operators “facilitated 93,261 information contacts and provided 115,591 individual resource referrals,” according to the organization.

Of those more than 115,000 referrals, about 1,630 involved mental health issues and 51 specifically involved suicide prevention.

“To all Idahoans, media, schools, retirement centers, veterans groups, churches, civics groups, to everyone, we need to get the word out about 211,” Martin said.

“This is important to everybody,” Little added. “This is a continuation of a lot of good work happening in Idaho.”

During Tuesday’s press conference, Little also announced a plan to create a Behavioral Health Council, which will have its first meeting March 30. Little said the council was agreed upon by all three branches of Idaho government.

To create the council, Little said he will issue an executive order, with the Legislature passing a resolution and the Idaho Supreme Court issuing a proclamation.

“Collectively, we will all agree, basically, on a meeting place where we make sure things aren’t falling through the gap and that we’re addressing these big, holistic behavioral health issues, and of course, suicide is a part of that,” Little said.

Olivia Heersink is the Canyon County public safety reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at oheersink@idahopress.com. Follow her on Twitter @heersinkolivia

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