The Arkansas Department of Human Services will be launching a new helpline aimed at helping individuals with mental health issues and drug addiction. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the new helpline today (Aug. 20), which he says will be staffed by professionals trained in providing guidance on mental health and addiction issues
This helpline – dubbed the Mental Health and Addiction Services helpline– will be operational Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“Too often, a night in jail is our answer for people who are suffering a mental-health crisis or are struggling with a drug addiction,” said. “With this encouraging growth in the number of providers, we are improving our ability to give our fellow Arkansans a hand up. This new helpline gives us the important option of offering people in great need professional guidance in navigating their obstacles rather than adding to their load with a criminal record or leaving them to fight through it alone. I commend DHS for creating this important tool.”
There are currently 17 hotlines listed on the state DHS website. The new helpline, as of press time, has not been added to the site.
The helpline operators are trained to guide callers to the services that they require. Operators can direct callers to a range of services, including counseling (individual and group), substance abuse and/or addiction counseling, medical management, mental health crisis counseling, family counseling and more.
According to Hutchinson, the helpline will complement recent Medicaid changes, in which the program covers more counseling or treatment options.
“We expanded the services that Medicaid covers. Counselors now can house their practices in the same building with a physician,” Hutchinson said. “This will increase access to addiction treatment by allowing doctors to send a patient directly to a counselor rather than hoping the patient will keep an appointment across town a week later.”
In two years, the number of licensed providers certified to treat drug addiction and mental health issues has risen by more than 500 percent. From 2017 to 2019, the number of certified providers has increased from 31 to 2017 – an increase of 567 percent.
The number for the Mental Health and Addiction Services helpline is 844-763-0198.