NCDHHS fully staffed amid higher call volume to 988 mental health hotline

Tom George Image
Saturday, February 3, 2024
NCDHHS fully staffed amid higher call volume to 988 mental health line
Getting help for mental health has never been easier. And the number of callers to 988 is on the uptick.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Getting help for mental health has never been easier. Ever since the launch of the 988 hotline, more people in crisis can get help.

In North Carolina, just as in other states, there has been an increase in those calls coming in. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) said it has not had turnover issues and has been able to make sure staff positions are filled.

Statewide in 2023, more than 96,000 calls came in, and the state said it was able to staff those calls with a 98% answer rate and picked up the phone within 14 seconds.

This comes amid national data showing some states have had staffing issues because of burnout and high turnover rates. NCDHHS said it has been fully staffed and said it provides flexibility on scheduling. Supervisors and a debrief team help the staff members in case things are overwhelming.

In a statement to ABC11, NCDHHS said "All crisis Counselors complete 56-hour crisis intervention trainings, a 24-hour on-the-job training provided by REAL Crisis and a 16-hour Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). Also, there are monthly in-service training events for all crisis counselors, which offer additional training opportunities and case study review of calls and/or review of best practice and community options for callers."

That's also something we're seeing in some of the other nonprofit mental health call centers that are volunteer-based. The Raleigh-based HopeLine said that though many who choose to volunteer have a lot of compassion and the ability to listen, that can sometimes create stress.

"Most people that are drawn to this type of work, especially on a volunteer capacity, are pretty empathetic already. And so, you know, it can be easy. I think some people come to this experience with a little bit more, you know, the ability to reach out for help already. Some are kind of in the middle of learning how to do that," said program coordinator Lynn Allen.

As for HopeLine, it has a training process for volunteers, and part of that is addressing self-care and making sure they're not taking on too much. It has 45 trained volunteers but is hoping to bring in more. Just recently it had a booth at Carolina Hurricanes games for Mental Health Awareness, which got a lot of positive feedback.

Later this month, it is training a new crop of volunteers that it hopes can get it up to 60 volunteers, which is enough to provide confidence in handling the current call volume.

If you are experiencing suicidal, substance use or other mental health crises please call or text the three-digit code at 988. You will reach a trained crisis counselor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also go to