- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas lawmakers are trying to get a suicide prevention call center back on the national network after almost a year in which the state didn’t take such calls.

The Arkansas Crisis Center, the state’s only participant in the national hotline, quit taking calls in April due to funding shortfalls. That left Arkansas as one of only two states without one of the nearly 160 call centers affiliated with the national hotline, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2mj0Wys ) reported.

Two bills are being considered to address the issue. One bill, from Rep. Bob Johnson, D-Jacksonville, would empower the state Department of Health to operate a 24-hour, accredited call center to answer Arkansas residents’ calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The other bill, proposed by Rep. Tim Lemons, R-Cabot, would allocate $2.3 million for the Department of Human Services’ Division of Behavior Health Services to take a more holistic approach, including establishing a call center.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas rose from No. 16 to No. 10 in the federal rankings of suicides per capita in 2016, with more than 570 suicides reported. Activists attribute part of the problem to the lack of an in-state hub for calls to the national suicide hotline.

About 95 percent of Arkansas residents have had their calls to the national suicide hotline routed to another state for the past two years. But out-of-state call centers don’t know where to refer people in Arkansas to for help, Arkansas Crisis Center executive director Mary Katherine McKinley said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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