Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear advocates 988 mental health crisis lifeline

Beshear: We must treat 'mental health the same way as we treat physical health'

Mental health advocates in Kentucky expressed hope Monday that the launch of a three-digit mental health crisis hotline will help remove the stigma of reaching out for assistance.

The 988 hotline went live nationally this past Saturday, offering quick help for suicidal thoughts and other mental health emergencies. People taking the calls are trained counselors.

"The reality is suicide is preventable," said Carol Cecil, executive director at Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children Inc. "We have to get it out there that it’s OK to not be OK. It is OK to reach out for help."

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Advocates joined Gov. Andy Beshear to promote the suicide and crisis lifeline. The governor noted that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults in Kentucky.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has backed the concept of a 988 mental health crisis hotline.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has backed the concept of a 988 mental health crisis hotline. ( Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images)

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Counselors can link Kentucky callers to other mental health and substance use services, providing a "strong safety net" in communities, said Audra Hall, coordinator of emergency services for Pennyroyal Center in Hopkinsville.

Health care is a "basic human right," Beshear said, and that belief "requires that we treat mental health the same way as we treat physical health."

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"One of the things that defines us as human beings, but I’d like to think as Kentuckians, is how we respond when people are in need," the governor said.