Minnesota’s only suicide hotline is in danger of going offline, unless the state can find the funds by May 21.
Crisis Connection, the only call center in the state taking calls from the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, needs at least $969,000 annually to keep the lines open, center manager Laura Weber told the local press earlier this month.
“Minnesotans need a state-based suicide prevention lifeline that is able to serve our entire state,” Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton told state lawmakers last week. “The need for this essential service is underscored by recent increases in suicide rates in Minnesota.”
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, suicide has steadily risen in the state the past two decades. Minnesota’s suicide rate in 2016 was 13.5 deaths per 100,000 residents and has risen 4 percent since 2000, outpacing the national average.
Crisis Connection was going to close in July of 2017, but a $139,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Health allowed it to keep the phone lines open. The reprieve was issued as the state faced high suicide and opioid addiction rates, but with only 13 hotline contracts, money is running out.
The center served 52,000 callers last year as the state’s only option, so Dayton requested that new funding be allocated to grant programs allowing nonprofits to operate their own call centers.
Currently, Crisis Connection is owned by Canvas Health, a nonprofit community mental health agency that is funded through grants and contracts. A pair of bills in the Minnesota House and Senate would provide the funding necessary, but they must be passed by the end of the session to prevent Crisis Connection from closing its doors.