PARIS, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) – A new national suicide prevention hotline number, 988, will go into effect on July 16th.

However, some health officials in Edgar County have concerns about mental health crisis response times from that number to the county and in surrounding areas.

The closest mobile crisis center to Edgar County, is north of the county in Iroquois County. This is roughly a two hour drive away. Human Resource Center Executive Director Jonathan Burns said that he hopes the 988 number will be able to do what it’s intended to do. However, he has concerns right now about its effectiveness in getting crisis responders to those who need it in Edgar County.

“I worry about our ability to get a crisis worker to that individual,” Burns said. “We don’t fully understand how those calls are going to from a state crisis center to the local area.”

Horizon Health Director of Emergency Services Samantha McCarty echoed similar thoughts in terms of crisis worker response times. McCarty emphasized the strong local ties and bonds that Horizon Health holds with the people that they serve. She said that there’s still a lot of questions surrounding 988 and that the thought of someone in crisis having to wait hours for a response is troubling.

“We want to make sure that we’re taking care of our local people,” McCarty said. “Trying to rely on something outside of our local resource knowing that they may or may not have that capacity is kind of scary for us.”

Officials are looking for short term solutions to the problem. Burns stated that HRC will continue its own resource hotline to make sure that they take care of their counties. McCarty said that Horizon will do the same. She went on to say that they’re going to work with HRC to fill any gaps that the adjustment period to 988 may leave behind.

“We use our pool or resources to help each other to cover any gaps that may be occurring,” McCarty said.

Burns mentioned that the long term solution is to find more crisis responders. This is a position that is in short supply across the nation. He said that adding more of these responders will put HRC in a better position to receive a grant to make them a mobile crisis center.

The 988 number will go into effect on July 16th.