Cardinal Innovations announces mental health crisis line made for COVID-19

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CHARLOTTE — A new helpline has been created to serve residents in Chatham County and the surrounding areas with mental health crises, influenced by the need to lessen the burden of emergency departments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dialing “**ASK,” or “**275,” will connect residents in the service area of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, the county’s state-funded mental health service, with licensed clinicians who can provide immediate assistance and references to a network of providers. The helpline is available 24-7 and will serve, according to a Cardinal Innovations press release, as the equivalent of dialing 9-1-1.

Cardinal Innovations CEO Trey Sutten said in a press release that creation of the helpline serves a particular purpose during COVID-19.

“During this time when so many are struggling to get access to care of every kind, we looked for solutions to equip our community with a resource for mental health emergency situations,” Sutten said. “The stakes are incredibly high as we seek to help ensure health and wellness for our members and their families but also support our hospital partners and communities. **ASK is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our effort to make Emergency Departments available for those in the most acute need.”

Cardinal Innovations had a 24/7 crisis line prior to the creation of **ASK — which could be found at 1-800-939-5911 — but the agency said the emergency line will “increase access to mental health care and best support the health and wellness of all who live in the community.”

Cardinal Innovations is a managed care organization (MCO) that serves 20 counties across North Carolina as that area’s public mental health agency. The agency’s board of directors includes Chatham County Public Health Director Layton Long, who said in a statement that **ASK is a “better alternative” to 9-1-1 for Chatham residents experiencing a mental health crisis.

“When they are able to speak to a licensed clinician in seconds, our community members can get quickly connected to the care and support they need,” Long said. “This also helps decrease traffic in crowded Emergency Departments as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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