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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Texas To Get Funds To Improve Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Texas Health and Human Services is getting a financial boost from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline aimed to help more Texans get the mental health help they need.

The $3 million, two-year grant will help the state’s Suicide Prevention Lifeline call centers better respond to residents in crisis by increasing the number of answered calls, reducing wait times and connecting them to local treatment facilities or emergency service centers.

Currently only about 31% of in-state calls to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline are answered here in Texas. Officials hope the funding will raise Texas' answer rate to 70% — lowering the need to re-route calls to centers outside the state.

“The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline grant will create more opportunities to offer hope, help and healing to Texans in need of critical services,” said Sonja Gaines, HHS deputy executive commissioner of Intellectual and Developmental Disability and Behavioral Health Services. “This grant provides Texans across the state with access to local support and resources needed to ensure those in an emotional crisis get the help they need.”

Also, Texans who call the Lifeline can be routed to different back-up call centers, which might be out of state. That can make it harder for people to find treatment locally. That's why Texas Health and Human Services will contract with four mental health authorities, including My Health My Resources of Tarrant County, to implement the grant early next year.

“Suicide is a concern for large and small communities across Texas and the nation. We are very thankful that this funding helps our efforts to assist with local suicidal calls,” said Mark Ware, senior director of crisis services of My Health My Resources of Tarrant County. “With the Lifeline Grant, our employees are able to connect callers in our community with local resources to help with immediate needs and effectively impact suicide rates across Texas.”

The other organizations that receiving grant funds are the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, Integral Care in Travis County and Emergence Health Network in El Paso County.


Learn more about accessing behavioral health services in Texas:

For people in a crisis and concerned family members, please call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK).

To learn more about suicide prevention and crisis centers, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website and the HHS Suicide Prevention page.

This story's been updated to clairfy that calls to the Texas Suicide Prevention Lifeline that are not answered in-state are re-routed to outher Suicide Prevention Lifeline call centers outside of Texas.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.