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New Jersey’s First Suicide Hotline Call Center Operated at UMDNJ
PISCATAWAY - New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner (DHS) Jennifer Velez today toured the state's first suicide hotline call center, which launched on May 1. The NJ Hopeline is operated by University Behavioral HealthCare (UBHC) at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, using only New Jersey-based trained volunteer and professional counselors.According to the Centers for Disease Control's latest data, New Jersey has the second lowest suicide rate in the nation. However, the rate for adults age 35 to 64 spiked 31 percent from 1999 to 2010. It is also anticipated that stress related to property damage and loss from Superstorm Sandy could have a severe, long-term emotional impact on some residents.

"It's important for residents who are feeling alone, desperate or in distress to have a safe outlet, someone who they can connect with and who can provide professional counsel," Commissioner Velez said. "Using trained counselors who are based in New Jersey helps callers to relate easier, and can help lead to fewer suicides."

DHS awarded the $648,981 contract in March after a competitive bidding process. Under the contract, people who call the hotline will get a live, trained professional or volunteer and will never have their calls answered by or routed to an automated system. Beginning July 1, UBHC/UMDNJ will become a part of Rutgers University.

The hotline - NJHOPELINE (855-654-6735) - will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will serve as a backup to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network during times of excess call volume or after the Lifeline Crisis Centers' operating hours.

Suicide ranks as a leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24 - third to accidents and homicides.  Research has shown that most adolescent suicides occur in the afternoon or early evening and in the teen's home. The suicide rate increase in New Jersey among adults and minors was comparable to the national upturn of 28 percent over the same time period.

"The rate of suicides in the United States is rapidly escalating. It has risen by more than 30 percent in the past 10 years. The State of New Jersey is taking definitive action to help reduce the rate of suicides by funding the New Jersey Hopeline, the first, statewide suicide prevention hotline," said Christopher Kosseff, vice president and chief executive officer for UBHC's mental health services. "University Behavioral HealthCare is honored to have been selected to run this important suicide intervention."

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