Ozark Center Marks One-Year Anniversary as 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Call Center

Image Credit: Freeman Health System

Since the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline was established statewide on July 16, 2022, Ozark Center has seen a sizeable increase in calls by people suffering from a mental health crisis.

Ozark Center, an entity of Freeman Health System, is one of 200 crisis centers established nationwide receiving 988 calls. The three-digit number is a simple, one-stop number open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We don’t want people to be afraid to call if they are suffering from high job stress, parenting difficulties, struggling with an addiction or eating disorder — they can call for any reason,” said Debbie Fitzgerald, Director of Crisis Center.

Over the last 12 months, Ozark Center received 1,000-plus 988 calls, a vast majority from Jasper, Newton, McDonald, and Barton County residents.

“That’s the reason why we want people to know that we are here and that it never hurts to call and talk to someone. There is no right or wrong answer to call,” Fitzgerald said.

Each 988 call averages 20 minutes, while each 988 call is answered in less than 15 seconds.

“An informed community is a safer community because we are losing about 49,000 Americans nationwide each year to suicide,” Fitzgerald said.

In Missouri, suicide is among the top three leading causes of death in Missouri for men and women between the ages of ten and 34.

“I would like to see that number in our community, if possible, fall to zero,” Fitzgerald said.

The Ozark Center-based call center achieved 100 percent answer rate during several months, despite receiving multiple calls at once, and for many other months they ranked in the 98 percent range.

“We are so happy about that,” Fitzgerald said. “The message is clear: we’re here, we listen, we care, we want to help. You have nothing to lose by giving us a chance to help.”

About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020-2021. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com.

About Ozark Center: 

Ozark Center is based in Joplin, Missouri and has been an entity of Freeman Health System since 1996. It has been providing comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults and families since 1965 in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from the Four States. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the behavioral health needs of the community and promote awareness of behavioral health issues in an effort to eliminate the discrimination associated with it. For more information, visit ozarkcenter.com or call 417.347.7600.


Ozark Center
Freeman Health System

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