TWIN FALLS • Starting Monday, Idahoans will have free access to a new statewide suicide prevention hotline.
The hotline — 1-800-273-TALK — will operate free of charge for callers.
Since 2006, Idaho has been the only state in the country to not have a statewide suicide hotline. Idaho callers have most recently been directed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that outsourced the calls to hotlines in other states.
With the state hotline, Idahoans will talk to trained volunteers who are familiar with resources available on a regional and state level, according to a news release.
“Idaho lags behind other states in our crisis and suicide prevention services, and the hotline will help to close that gap,” John Reusser, the hotline’s executive director, said in a statement. “We’re ready to serve all of Idaho. Those who might be considering suicide, or those who just need someone to talk to — we’re here to take their calls.”
Idaho is one of the leading states with the highest suicide rates.
The hotline’s organizers have put a particular emphasis on help for military veterans and active-duty and reserve men, women and their families. But other high-risk individuals include people struggling with unemployment or financial strain, teenage boys, farmers, Native Americans and older males, according to the news release.
Last month, Idahoans made 400 calls to the national suicide prevention hotline.
The Legislature approved funding for the new state hotline after a pitch by several partnering organizations, including the Idaho Division of Veterans Services, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, United Way, the Speedy Foundation and Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation.
“We’re overwhelmed by the support the community has given the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline. It’s what made this program a reality,” said Reusser.
The hotline will be open Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hours will extend to Fridays starting in February 2013 as soon as more volunteers are trained. Organizers hope to extend to operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the hotline’s second year. Until then, off-hours calls will be answered by other members in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network.
For more information about the hotline or how to volunteer, visit www.idahosuicideprevention.org or www.facebook.com/idahosuicideprevention.com.