With calls rising, SC 988 suicide hotline is still without consistent state funding

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 10:49 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - It’s been nearly a year since Mental Health America of Greenville County launched the 988 mental health crisis hotline. It launched without an avenue of consistent funding. And even now, nearly a year later funding is still a concern.

Greenville’s 988 call center is the only one serving the state of South Carolina. They take about 100 calls each day. But many other calls are picked up in other states. Staff and advocates hope more funding will keep calls local.

“In general he looked like the most laid-back, kind, gentle human being,” said Susan Crooks, talking about her son, Walt Crooks.

He struggled with treatment resistant anxiety and depression for 20 years. And on August 22nd, 2019 he died by suicide. Two days after his death, Crooks’ other son Will, encouraged her to fight for change.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Mom, we’re going to start a movement and if we save one life, it’s going to be worth it,’” said Crooks.

That’s when Walt’s Waltz was born. Her nonprofit, named after her son’s love for music. The organization pushes for mental health education and breaking stigma. She also pushes for more resources, like the 988 hotline.

“There are more calls coming in,” said Kathy Eckart, the Director of Crisis Intervention Services for Mental Health America of Greenville County.

Through call, chat or text, 988 is not only a listening ear, but an avenue to connect people with local resources. Anything from medication assistance to immediate mobile crisis units.

“We have had a lot of grants that have helped support us. But grants you know, end,” said Eckart.

There is no consistent state funding for the program. They answer about 75% of calls, the others get sent out of state.

“We just need that funding to help us to hire the people to do that. but we’ve got the computers, we’ve got the phones, we’ve got it all” said Eckart.

Eckart says other states can’t respond in the same way

“Nobody knows our resources like us,” she said.

And nobody knows the importance of having access to help, like Crooks.

“Maybe you think, ‘oh, well I’m not suicidal. So I can’t make this call,’ but that is not true. You can make a call if you need to speak with someone and this is one reason why it is important that we get more local people in our call center” said Crooks.

Other Greenville mental health advocates are pushing for the state to fund more toward the center in the upcoming budget bill. For now, the center continues to rely on grants.

If you are experiencing thoughts of depression, self-harm, suicide, and more, simply dial those 3 numbers to connect with someone to talk to.

To learn more about 988 and its mission or to donate you can visit: https://988lifeline.org/our-crisis-centers/

Walt’s Waltz is an Upstate South Carolina based non-profit organization. Walt’s Waltz ends the stigma that surrounds those with mental health struggles through professionally led educational programs, integration of the performing and visual arts, and creation of Walt’s Waltz Stigma-Free Environments. Walt’s Waltz advocates for equitable funding including cutting-edge research in biomarkers for more targeted advancements toward novel curative therapies as we see with physical conditions.

To learn more or help out visit: https://www.waltswaltz.com/