STATE: North Carolina launches additional phone support for people with mental illness, substance use disorder

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is launching a new Statewide Peer Warmline on Feb. 20. The new Peer Warmline will work in tandem with the North Carolina 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by giving callers the option to speak with a Peer Support Specialist. Peer Support Specialists (or “peers”) are people living in recovery with mental illness and/or substance use disorder who provide support to others who can benefit from their lived experience.

The statewide Peer Warmline is a phone line staffed by Peer Support Specialists who offer non-clinical support and resources to those in crisis. Their unique expertise helps reduce stigma while strengthening overall engagement in care. Like 988, North Carolina’s Peer Warmline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Starting Tuesday, people in need of assistance and wanting to speak with a peer can call the warmline at 1-855-PEERS NC (855-733-7762), and people who call 988 will have the option to connect with the Peer Warmline if they prefer to speak with a peer.

The statewide Peer Warmline will be run by Promise Resource Network, a peer-run organization in Mecklenburg County. Promise Resource Network was awarded the contract following a public bidding process.

“When you’re in a tough spot, sometimes the best person to talk with is a person who has had similar experiences,” said NC Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “The Peer Warmline expands our behavioral health crisis system in North Carolina toward the goal of meeting people where they are and helping prevent crises in the first place.”

According to the NCDHHS 988 Performance Dashboard, more than 40% of 988 callers are repeat callers who find it helpful to speak with someone. By providing access to peers, the warmline expands and enhances 988’s ability to offer that service. Warmlines have also been shown to improve outcomes for people in crisis by reducing hospitalizations and emergency department visits, reducing the recurrence of behavioral health symptoms, and increasing communication and collaboration between clinical care teams, individuals in crisis and their families.

“Peer support specialists are so important in our mental health and substance use system,” said Kelly Crosbie, MSW, LCSW, Director of the NCDHHS Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Use Services. “Building relationships based on mutuality, trust and empowerment is essential to fostering healing and recovery.”

Both the NCDHHS Peer Warmline and 988 are available to anyone, anytime. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available.

Call 1-855-PEERS NC (855-733-7762) or call or text 988 or chat at 988Lifeline.org. People who speak Spanish can now connect directly to Spanish-speaking crisis counselors by calling 988 and pressing option 2, texting “AYUDA” to 988, or chatting online at 988lineadevida.org or 988Lifeline.org.

The Peer Warmline is part of NCDHHS’ broader strategy to improve behavioral health in North Carolina. The department is leveraging ongoing funding and the historic investment from the NC General Assembly to ensure everyone receives the care they need when and where they need it.

For additional context on how 988 and the Peer Warmline can work together to support a person’s behavioral health needs, watch the recent fireside chat and tele-town hall hosted by NCDHHS on supporting mental wellness and accessing health resources.