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New 988 Hotline

The man at the center of a mental health crisis that led to a shelter in place in Somerset County has died, according to Somerset Borough Police Chief Randy Cox.

Officers attempted to the negotiate with the 25-year-old for 3-hours while residents in the area of 600 block of East Main St, South Lynn Ave, and Plank Road were told to remain inside.

Eventually, Cox says the man shot himself and was flown to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

Cox says his office was notified by Cambria County Coroner Jeff Lees that the man died.

This latest incident, further emphasizing the need for more mental health services.

Starting next Month the mental health version of 911 will go into effect and it’s called the 988 Hotline.

Our Nicole Fuschino talked to officials at the Cambria County 911 Center who say this hotline will hopefully cut down on the amount of mental health calls they get.

“911, What’s the address of the emergency?’

Dispatchers in the Cambria County 911 Center take calls for vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, & all of the above.

But they also answer the call for those going through a mental health crisis

“We are very fortunate to have a number of our dispatchers and supervisors that have taken that training.”

911 Supervisor Joan Villa says since the beginning of this year *200* mental health calls have come into the Cambria County 911 Center.

In those situations dispatchers become the middleman connecting those with mental health resources.

“Whenever a person calls in, we have particular questions that we ask, so that we can make sure that we get them the right help, the right way, and the quickest, to help them, the officers, or any responding units.”

But what if those in distress could skip the step of calling 911 and access mental health treatment directly & quickly?

That’s exactly what’s happening next month when the 988 hotline goes into effect.

“It will reduce the number of calls that are coming in to 911. We don’t mind taking those, but we want them to get the help the quickest. That way, if they’re calling right to that line, they’re going to get the professional to talk to them from the initial call, instead of us being the middleman.”

Pennsylvania currently has 13 call centers that take calls from National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

But beginning July 16th that line can be reached directly by dialing 988.

We reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for clarity on how the hotline will work who wrote to us in part

“Dialing the number “988” will connect the caller to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from anywhere in the country. This is not a new service; rather, this is a new, easier way of accessing the network of call centers with trained staff to assist callers experiencing a behavioral health crisis.”

“So that the people that are in crisis can get help not police help but the mental help that they needed.”


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