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Valley behavioral health company sees boost in calls for help after 988 hotline rollout

mental health AP
Posted at 5:59 AM, Aug 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-18 09:23:59-04

PHOENIX — A Valley-based behavioral health company said it’s seen an increase in calls from people looking for care since the 988 mental health hotline rolled out nationwide last month.

Embark Behavioral Health specializes in teens, young adults, and their families.

While it isn’t directly tied to the 988 hotline, CEO Alex Stavros said they’ve seen an increase of about 25% in calls since the number went live.

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“Teen and young adult anxiety, depression, and suicide are at all-time highs right now and every single year it's been getting worse and worse,” Stavros said.

During the pandemic, he said, teens with depressive symptoms doubled.

“What 988 does, is it just starts to make [mental health care] more accessible, much like 911 has over history,” Stavros said. “This is a powerful part particularly for youth because you can just text 988.”

While the accessibility of 988 is a great step for our country, Stavros said he believes more needs to be done and invested.

“One of the challenges we're going to start to run into or have already is yes, we can call 988 and get some resources, but in terms of services on the ground, in terms of intensive outpatient programs and a whole spectrum and continuum of services -that's really lacking in our country,” he said. “There's going to need to be a significant investment to be able to provide the services to start to address this issue.”

The big issues now, he said, are there aren’t enough providers for mental health services, and the cost of care isn’t accessible to everyone.

States received federal funding earlier this year to help with crisis care rollout through 988, but it will mostly be up to individual states moving forward to decide whether to invest more resources for it.