Health Department Provides Funding to Keep Suicide Hotline Open

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has redirected funds temporarily in order to maintain a Minnesota site for the National Suicide Prevention Line.

The Crisis Connection Hotline was started in 1969 and has provided 24/7 service for Minnesotans struggling with mental health. Canvas Health, a nonprofit mental health counseling organization, took over the hotline in 2010, but has operated it under heavy losses, WCCO reported. This includes losses ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 annually.

Now the Minnesota Department of Health is going to provide the hotline $139,000, which should enable Canvas Health to keep the suicide hotline open until September 29.

“With Minnesota facing historically high suicide rates and an opioid addiction epidemic, we were concerned about losing this life-saving resource that serves tens of thousands of Minnesotans every year,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a press release. “This is not a permanent fix, but it will keep the suicide prevention line open for people in crisis and provide time to find a lasting solution.”

The funds come out of a series of temporary program shifts and salary savings in the MDH suicide prevention unit. Minnesota’s program would have been shut down on Friday evening otherwise, and calls to the line would have been redirected to other states’ programs of similar nature, resulting in longer wait times for callers.

The Minnesota Department of Health is also in conversations with a variety of federal agencies, state agencies, and non-profit partners in an effort to develop a long-term plan for ensuring a sustainable network of crisis lines. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is also investigating the possibility of setting up a suicide hotline dedicated for use by the state’s ranchers and farmers.

County level services of a similar nature will remain in effect regardless of funding for the statewide line.

Anders Koskinen