Fact Check: Can the 988 suicide/crisis hotline lead to Pittsburgh Police's involvement?

click to enlarge Fact Check: Can the 988 suicide/crisis hotline lead to Pittsburgh Police's involvement?
CP Illustration: Lucy Chen

Fact Check: Can the 988 suicide/crisis hotline lead to Pittsburgh Police's involvement?

City Pigeon Verdict: Yes



The new 988 national mental health hotline was launched this month. While some mental health advocates celebrate the ease with which individuals in crisis can now dial 988 from anywhere in the country and be connected to the nearest affiliate of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network, others have made social media posts warning that calling 988 could trigger police involvement in situations deemed “dangerous” by helpline workers.

Pittsburgh City Paper contacted an administrator from Resolve, UPMC’s 24-hour crisis hotline and local National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network affiliate, to find out if this is true.

According to Dr. Jack Rozel, medical director of Resolve crisis services of UPMC Western Behavioral Health, helpline operators are trained crisis clinicians “and we have over 100 incredible staff at Resolve who are here 24/7, 365 to help all the people in Allegheny County.”

Rozel says that about 90% of calls are managed “purely with phone support.” He says UPMC’s mobile crisis teams, which do not include law enforcement officers, handle the remainder of the calls, mostly without law enforcement involvement.

There are some situations, however, in which Resolve will involve law enforcement, Rozel says.

“The most common reasons we seek law enforcement is for assistance with involuntary commitments or if there are significant concerns of imminent and serious danger that we cannot reasonably address without law enforcement involvement,” Dr. Rozel says.

According to Rozel, “Resolve has embraced the recovery model and adheres to the principle of using the least restrictive interventions necessary. Involuntary interventions are considered only as a last resort. If there is an immediate risk to a person’s life and that person is unwilling or unable to voluntarily engage in a plan to get them an appropriate evaluation or treatment, then we do consider involuntary interventions, which may include law enforcement response. This approach is the standard of care for licensed crisis providers in Pennsylvania and for members of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network."


Have you seen a social media post from a local politician or public figure that you'd like verified by Pittsburgh City Paper's fact-checking pigeon? Email CP News Reporter Jordana Rosenfeld at jordana@pghcitypaper.com for consideration in a future column.