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WV Department of Health and Human Resources highlights 988 as a mental health resource for EMS first responders

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. –  As part of Mental Health Month and EMS Week, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Public Health – Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) is highlighting a resource available to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) first responders. Crisis counselors with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offer support to EMS workers during times of difficulty and stress.

“EMS and all first responders are heroes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need support,” said Jody Ratliff, OEMS Director. “Not only are they working to balance family and work schedules, but they are dealing with traumatic and challenging events on a daily basis, which makes a huge impact on mental health.”

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline offers confidential 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress including thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. 

DHHR’s OEMS and Bureau for Behavioral Health worked with First Choice Services, which operates the DHHR-funded 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in West Virginia, to coordinate EMS ride-alongs with 988 crisis counselors to provide insight on talking to first responders.

“Seeking help for mental health challenges is critical to improving and maintaining overall well-being,” said Dawn Cottingham-Frohna, Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health. “We can work together to break the stigma associated with mental health issues and set an example for future generations by using resources such as 988.”

EMS first responders and all West Virginians in need of crisis support are encouraged to call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. 988 also serves as the Veterans Crisis Line (press 1 option).

West Virginians seeking referrals for treatment of mental health or addiction for themselves or a loved one can call, text, or chat HELP4WV: 1-844-HELP4WV or www.help4wv.com

Governor Jim Justice also proclaimed May as Mental Health Month in West Virginia. 

For additional information on behavioral health resources, visit dhhr.wv.gov/bbh. To view and apply for DHHR careers, visit dhhr.wv.gov/Pages/Career-Opportunities.aspx

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) provides a wide range of necessary and life-saving services to many West Virginia residents. DHHR is comprised of the Bureau for Behavioral Health; Bureau for Child Support Enforcement; Bureau for Family Assistance; Bureau for Medical Services; Bureau for Public Health; Bureau for Social Services; Office of Inspector General; and West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program (WV CHIP). For more information, visit dhhr.wv.gov or call the DHHR at 304-558-0684.

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