Greetings from your Missouri Capitol on this hot July morning. I sincerely hope you are staying cool and enjoying our Missouri summer and taking time to spend with your family, enjoying so many activities and places right here in Jefferson City.
It has been some time since I last communicated with you through this medium, and it has been a busy summer filled with many meetings and conversations with many of you. There are a few things I wanted to share with you, and this will be my last column until after the general election in November per protocol with the News Tribune.
Missouri once again received good news as the latest jobs report shows Missouri’s unemployment rate has hit a record low. The state unemployment rate fell to 2.8 percent in June, which is the lowest rate in Missouri since the data series began in 1976.
Missouri was previously at 3.1 percent unemployment for the month of May but saw non-farm payroll employment increase by 5,300 jobs from May to June. That increase dropped the unemployment rate by three-tenths of a percent. Compared to last year at the same time, Missouri has seen an increase of 65,500 jobs. The June 2021 unemployment rate was 4.4, which is 1.6 percentage points higher than the current rate. Missouri’s unemployment rate has been at or below the national rate for the last five years.
As many of you know, I have been the chair of the veterans committee for the past three years, and I approached the speaker of the House at the end of this past session and asked him if I could chair an interim committee dealing with veteran mental health and suicide. He approved the committee and assigned seven of my colleagues to the committee, and we will have our first of four hearings from 11 am-2 pm Wednesday in hearing room 7. I have invited subject experts from different state agencies and private partners to share their thoughts and best practices in addressing both of these issues.
Missouri ranks number one in veteran suicide, and it is my hope that we can discuss this issue head on and make some headway into reducing the number of suicides significantly and giving local communities and families the tools they need to recognize the signs of suicide and to begin discussion about mental health issues facing so many in our society today. At the end of these hearings, we will produce a paper that will be distributed to all legislators to take back to their respective districts and hopefully make a difference in veterans and their families’ lives.
Along those same lines there is a new resource available that will address mental health and suicide statewide. The 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is now available in Missouri. Missourians suffering from mental health, thoughts of suicide or substance use crisis can now dial 9-8-8 to receive compassionate, accessible care and support. The 988 number routes callers to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
During the 2022 legislative session, the Missouri House and Senate approved approximately $30.5 million in funding to implement the new 988 Crisis Hotline. The governor signed that funding into law, and the new system officially began operation on July 16.
The 988 line will be the first step to engage individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. There are seven crisis centers in Missouri responsible for answering 988 contacts for the state. The trained crisis specialists at each center will listen, work to understand how the individual’s problems are affecting them, provide support and connect them to resources. Crisis specialists will also have the ability to dispatch mobile crisis response teams for additional crisis response wherever the crisis is occurring in the community and based on the needs of the person.
The director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health said the department is “seizing this opportunity to advance current crisis services towards an evidence-based care continuum prepared to deliver high-quality behavioral health services statewide. Providing consistent crisis care and support will be integral to reducing the burden on and misuse of law enforcement/emergency response and other public health services.”
While 988 is a national initiative, it is up to each state to ensure crisis services are available to anyone, anywhere and at any time. After nearly two years of planning and preparation, Missouri’s 988 centers are prepared and ready to answer the projected 253,000 contacts (calls, texts, and chats) expected in the first year of the 988 implementation.
For more information on 988 in Missouri, please visit https://dmh.mo.gov/behavioral-health/988-suicide-and-crisis-lifeline.
Missourians dealing with a crisis who need immediate help can reach out by calling or texting 988, or chatting at https://988lifeline.org/
I have enjoyed sharing with you many of the activities and legislation me and my colleagues have worked on in this past session, and it is my hope that I will be able to represent you in the coming session and beyond. Until then if my office can be of any assistance to you please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. As I have said many times, it truly is an honor to serve as your state representative.
State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri’s 60th House District.