By Karen Morfitt

DENVER (CBS4) – Everyone knows 911 is the number you call in an emergency. Soon there will be a 988 number for those looking for mental health and crisis support. It’s part of a national suicide prevention initiative that will go live this July.

Staff at Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners are preparing to take those calls in addition to the thousands they already take from across the state of Colorado.

“A lot of the services that will be available with 988 will be a continuation of things we have been doing,” said Tom Grimmer, CFO at RMCP.

They anticipate their current call load will nearly double and are working to add dozens of new call takers.

Erik Jacobsen, who started his work at RMCP as a crisis specialist, continues to answer calls while working as a community liaison.

“It sounds cliché, but you’ve got to step into their shoes,” he said.

In the last two years and as communities navigated through a pandemic, he says calls not only increased, but so have the struggles.

“A lot of them are quite intense in nature. COVID has had a tremendous impact on finances, relationships, education. There’s no part of society that it hasn’t trickled into,” he said.

They added staff to help carry the load, but now with plans to add more weight in the coming months they’ll need to do it again.

“There were many pockets, many disjointed systems. The challenge has been to set up a national broad-based system that is consistent from state to state,” Grimmer said.

The answer was 988 a national crisis line that they will now answer calls for.

“The initiatives that started a dozen years ago have led us to the point where we are one of only four states who can say ‘Okay, here are the federal regulations. We can do it,” Grimmer said.

(credit: CBS)

But they’ll need some help of their own to make it happen and would like to hire and train dozens of new call takers as well as other positions.

“It’s really important that you do know this is intense work, but it’s intense work you can do,” Jacobsen said.

He says there will be tough days, but there are also times you change a person’s life, and that is what keeps him coming back.

“All it takes is one call to kind of turn the tide on how you view things,” he said.

To help with their recruiting efforts, they are hosting a job fair Thursday. It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1475 S Colorado Blvd Denver, CO 80222. If you have question you can email the team at recruiting@rmcrisispartners.org.

Karen Morfitt