Plan proposed for statewide crisis hotline after calls for help go unanswered

SALT LAKE CITY - State and county politicians met at the State Capital building in Salt Lake Wednesday afternoon to try to find a solution to the rising suicide numbers in the state.

"A few months ago, I was sitting at home and my son came to me and told me he had thoughts of suicide," said Salt Lake County Council Member Aimee Winder Newton, who is helping to champion the effort.

"I had never been in that situation before, and I had no idea where to turn to for help," she said.

Winder Newton admits that's when the wheels starting turning to find a solution. Representative Steve Eliason joined the effort and put his intern to work calling the 19 existing county crisis hotline numbers. Only one qualified representative picked up. The other calls either went to voicemail, were transferred to an automated system, or simply kept ringing.

"To leave a voicemail for someone who's going through that crisis is a terrible option," Rep. Eliason said.

The pair is proposing that a location in Salt Lake City serve as a headquarters of sorts, so when calls don't get picked up elsewhere, they get rolled over to someone in Salt Lake who can help 24/7.

To do that most efficiently, the hope is to establish a three-digit phone number that's a universal crisis hotline number throughout the state.

"Everybody knows what number to call for an emergency, 911," Rep Eliason points out. "We want it to be as easy to remember it for mental health crisis too."

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