Minn. mental health hotline closing next week

The mental health, addiction and abuse helpline Crisis Connection is shutting down July 14, ending a service that took some 18,000 calls last year.

It had connected Minnesotans with local psychiatrists and counselors — as well as first-responders and emergency rooms — for nearly 50 years.

"There isn't another call center to pick these up. So we'll be encouraging people to call 911, to go to the local, nearest hospital emergency department, or to contact their local mobile crisis team, if they have one," said Matt Eastwood, CEO of Canvas Health, which operates Crisis Connection.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that Crisis Connection operates will no longer receive Minnesota-based calls starting next week. "Those calls will be routed, I believe, to another call center or other call centers around the country," Eastwood said. Crisis Connection callers will reach a voicemail message starting Friday.

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So far this year, the suicide prevention line has taken 16,000 calls, he said. The center in total took some 50,000 calls last year.

Crisis Connection has seen a "significant" jump in the number of calls this year, Eastwood said.

When a Minnesotan would call Crisis Connection, a counselor would first conduct a risk-assessment before recommending the caller for care, or contacting first responders for them.

"We're really there for the crisis, not the long-term counseling," Eastwood said.

It's closing for financial reasons: overall losses, and insufficient funds to pay counselors.

"Our professional staff could make more money as a janitor at any of the local hospitals in the metro area than they could working with a master's degree for us," Eastwood said a union negotiator told him.

Crisis Connection recently raised some $85,000 in funding. Still, Eastwood said, it's projecting a $215,000 loss.

For people looking for other resources, the National Alliance on Mental Illness keeps an updated list of crisis services.

Editor's note: (July 10, 2017): This story has been updated to make it clear that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will still operate, rerouting Minnesota calls to a provider different from Crisis Connection.

Editor's note: (July 14, 2017): This story has been updated to specify the number of calls to the Crisis Connection service, rather than the call center at large.