OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said there are about 80 phone hotlines operated by various state agencies and advocacy groups, including those designed to help Oklahoma children and youth. An interim study Floyd requested to take a closer look at those emergency lines was held Monday at the state Capitol.
“We have hotlines that provide information on nutrition for babies and children, suicide prevention hotlines, hotlines for reporting child abuse, sexual assault, crime tips and many others,” Floyd said. “I wanted to get a better handle on these services, particularly the ones that help children and youth, and see how well they performed during the pandemic. I think the very positive take away from this study is that these systems continued to meet the needs of Oklahomans that rely on them.”
One area that hotline administrators saw impacted by COVID-19 was calls to the state’s domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking hotline. The service, funded by the State Attorney General’s office and administered by the YWCA, received 4,600 calls between April and August of 2019. According to Angela Beatty, Senior Director of Domestic Violence Victim Services for the YWCA of Oklahoma City, the domestic violence hotline received only 3,500 calls during that same time period in 2020. The decline was attributed to possible confusion as to what services might be available during the pandemic.
Carrie Slatton-Hodges, Interim Commissioner for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services also discussed a new federal three-digit number that will be activated in 2022. The number 988 will be the nation’s universal mental health crisis service number. The number would initially be activated in a few states before being made available nationwide.
“I’d like to see Oklahoma be among those first states to have this service. We were told Oklahoma has some of the pieces in place, but we’d need more infrastructure and need to make sure we have the mental health professionals and community crisis care centers necessary,” Floyd said. “That’s something to explore further as we prepare for this new service.”