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Trauma expert calls new 988 hotline a 'game changer' for Greater Baton Rouge area

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BATON ROUGE - 9-8-8 is the new phone number that launched this weekend that works to help those dealing with crises and put them in touch with trained specialists.

“When a person is in crisis, or their family member sees that their loved one is struggling, they can call that number. They can be rerouted to a person that's trained, they're professional and compassionate, they know how to deescalate, and they can also connect them to local resources,” said Tonya Myles, a certified peer support specialist and trauma expert in the Greater Baton Rouge area.

Myles is well known throughout the community, helping those through trying times. Most recently, she's been helping addicts by providing Narcan to the community to help curb the increase in overdoses.

“We've had over 750 people who we call nonfatal who overdosed and did come back to life,” she said.

She says the new hotline is another step in the right direction.

"If you have a family member that you see in a mental health crisis, normally people don't know what to do, but now they can call 9-8-8. They can be routed to resources," Myles said. "I call it a call for help, but connections to hope because at the end of the day, if we just have a number without resources, then what have we really done?"

And it's more than just a phone number. This new operation will send a team out to those in crisis.

"Now, we do have crisis mobilization teams or units that are going to be in different areas that the person can call, and then they can get someone to come to them. It can be at their job, at school, it can be at church, it can be anywhere someone is experiencing a crisis, and they need help right then and there," Myles said.

This easy access to resources is crucial to saving lives.

"Mental health is real, but so is healing, and to reach out and get the help that they need, and they do not have to be ashamed," Myles said.

The current suicide prevent hotline will also stay in place. You can also text the 9-8-8 number to chat with a trained counselor.

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