Starting Saturday, July 16, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will have a new, shorter phone and text number. ‘988’. In the Four States, Freeman Health System’s Ozark Center is one of 200 locally owned and operated organizations working with state and federal officials to oversee the change. Director of Crisis Services at the Ozark Center, Debbie Fitzgerald wants to remind residents that Freeman’s current lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), will operate alongside the new ‘988’ number.
To get ready for the national reach of the ‘988’ lifeline, the Ozark Center received two grants to hire additional staff and update their phone/text routing software. Debbie with Ozark Center says they have been preparing for months for Saturday, July 16, 2022.
“It feels really good to be able to have the resources and to be able to prepare for it. All I can say is that we’re ready. We’re really looking forward to being able to expand our reach and help those who need us. And we’re hoping that people will actually use it.”
According to Debbie, the Ozark Center answers about 15,000 calls annually before the ‘988’ launch. It’s difficult even to guess how much the number of calls will increase after July 16 or to approximate the decrease in ‘911’ calls after the launch of the new toll-free hotline.
“The whole idea was to have a universal nationwide easy call number so that people will know that ‘988’ is for anything emotional, mental health, behavioral health or even additions.”
The new ‘988’ number is for more than people who just need resources during a crisis, although it will also serve those needs. The locally staffed centers across the U.S. will assist callers experiencing mental health challenges while also connecting them with a litany of resources that are meant to improve their lives. Debbie hopes that ‘988’ is a game-changer for American society in the same way that ‘911’ was for residents nationwide to call police, ambulance, and fire services in the late ‘1980s.
“And it’s my hope that people will no longer see mental health as something shameful or stigmatized because I say the brain is probably the most important organ in the body.”
Midterm elections are nearly upon us, and for the first time in a decade, the incumbent (R) Billy Long is not running to defend his seat in Missouri’s 7th Congressional District. This development has led to a wide-open primary and includes well-known candidates such as Missouri’s State Senators Eric Burlison and Mike Moon to former State Senator and Mayor of Nixa Jay Wasson. Three years ago, Audrey Richards looking to find her political footing, ran as an independent but this year filed as a Republican. Richards says she learned a lot from that first run in 2019.
“A lot. A very, very large amount for sure. I would say the biggest change for me was that when I began my campaign in 2019, I was very naive about the realities of political systems. I studied it academically, I have a degree in political science, but until you’re in it and you’re running for office, you don’t quite understand everything that’s at play.”
How Richards operated and ran her 2019/2020 campaign and how she thinks of this year’s effort are night and day. Richards admits that during her first run she felt that if she could be herself, meet enough people and tell voters what she stood for, the strategy would provide a good chance of success.
As a write-in candidate, during a global pandemic, that approach only mustered her 1,237 votes in a district with nearly 800,000 residents, according to Ballotpedia.org. Richards says that she refocused her message as one of two women running as a Republican in the primary and being the youngest candidate.
“This time, I have to have a goal. What is the point? Why am I running? What am I doing? And the biggest problem I saw happened on January 6 of last year. It hurt me on so many levels; as an American, it hurt me emotionally because I had lived in Washington DC for so long at college and then at the treasury. And I was like, we have to fight to keep the country together.”
Richard, born in Joplin, grew up in Kimberling City near Branson. After graduating high school, she moved to our nation’s capital to attend George Washington University, graduating with a bachelor’s in political science. After working for the Office of the Comptroller, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury, and writing for various sports publications, she decided to move home and run for Congress. Richards says she’s been asked many times why she moved back to Missouri.
“Really, the answer is that my family is here. My D.C. experience was great;I learned a lot, but it was never meant to be my home. It was, ‘I’m going to go out to D.C., and I’m going to learn politics, I’m going to learn how things work. And then I’m going to come back here and do that for my people.”
HCR 5003. You may know it better as the ‘Value Them Both’ amendment on the August 2 primary ballot in Kansas. Technically, the amendment is a special election on the midterm ballot.
Dylan Lysen, a political reporter for the Kansas Service Service, says it’s a long and winding road with how the amendment got in front of voters.
“If Roe gets overturned at the Federal level, currently abortion rights are protected in Kansas state constitution, but that (August 2) vote will decide whether that should remain that way or if it should be removed, which could open the flood gates for changes to the law related to abortion rights in the future.”
With Friday’s news that the U.S. Supreme overturned 50 years of legal precedent in reversing Roe v. Wade, the vote on ‘Value Them Both’ would overturn the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said that women have a fundamental right to abortion as enshrined in the Kansas constitution. Dylan says that this ruling is acting as a firewall to keep abortions legal in the Sunflower State.
“The interesting thing about the Federal ruling is basically, is that if they overturn Roe v. Wade basically every state will have its own patchwork of laws deciding whether abortion is legal there, and right now the Kansas Supreme Court believes that the Kansas Constitution is what is protecting Kansas abortion rights.”
Within hours of Friday’s decision from the Supreme Court, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a proclamation activating the “Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act”. The action, among other provisions, “Prohibits doctors from performing abortions unless there is a medical emergency.”
One unique aspect of the ‘Value Them Both’ campaign in Kansas is that because an issue is on the ballot and not a person, numerous churches and religious organizations in the state and nationwide have thrown their influence and money behind approving the amendment according to Dylan.
“Republicans are definitely supporting the ‘Value Them Both’ amendment; that’s how it kind of passed the legislature with the Republican supermajority there. You’re also seeing churches getting involved because it’s an issue, not a candidate; they have the legal right to advocate issues up for election as opposed to candidates, which they are barred from doing.”
Primary day in Kansas and Missouri is Tuesday, August 2.
To be eligible to vote in primary elections, you must be registered to vote by July 12 in Kansas and by July 6 in Missouri.