A look at how the 9-8-8 Helpline Call Center works
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga, First Lady Ella Pelefoti Mauga, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale and his wife, Marian McGuire Ale and other guests attended last Friday’s launching of the Suicide & Mental Health 9-8-8 Helpline call center, at its temporary location at the Haleck Professional Building in Tafuna.
[l-r] Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga, Lt. Gov. Talauega Eleasalo Ale and his wife, Marian McGuire Ale, as well as First Lady, Ella Pelefoti Mauga listening to a briefing of the operation inside the Suicide & Mental Health 9-8-8 Helpline call center last Friday. [photo: FS]
Dr. Siitia Soliai-Lemusu, administrator of the Behavioral Health Services at the Health Department, provided a briefing on the operations to the first group to tour the call center — Lemanu, Talauega — along with their wives, the Police Commissioner and a handful of others.
“Anything that we do, including missed calls is recorded on the software. And the information is used for evaluation and follow up,” she said.
While listening to the briefing, Lemanu decided to test the 9-8-8 line if it actually rings, and sure enough, the phone rang. “I was testing the line to see if it works,” Lemanu told the laughing group, which included the nosey Samoa News reporter in the first group.
Asked by the governor if residents of Aunu’u and the Manu’a island group can also call directly from the islands to 988, it was a “yes” from Soliai-Lemusu, who also responded to a question from the First Lady on ensuring confidentiality of those who call into the helpline.
Soliai-Lemusu also explained that when a call comes in “the operator tries to defuse the crisis first, then lead the caller step-by-step in terms of trying to defuse the situation. As soon as they do that, then they build the confidence of the client and it’s a follow up thereafter.”
“However, if it’s a quick crisis, we work with 911-Dispatch, trying to get the location of the caller. If it’s a family member calling in for the person in crisis [we] try and get the location so that dispatch and first responders can get to the home,” she said.
The First Lady posed another interesting question. “If I’m the individual calling, I’m going thru something, and then I change my mind, in the last minute, and then I hang up. And you call me back. How does the number show up on my phone? Does it show up an unknown caller, private number, or does it show up as 988?”
Soliai-Lemusu explained that the call-back will show up as “our 7 digit number, local number, and its a 699 number, which will show up on their caller ID.”
She emphasized the importance of “follow-up” for the helpline to ensure the safety of the caller — the person in crisis, in need of help, and also “follow-up, follow-up.”
And “we also work with ASTCA and Public Safety,” she said and pointed out that it’s fortunate “we’re a small community, people know where people live.”
The helpline is a collaborative initiative between Health Department and the Department of Human and Social Services with others partners.