A new resource is now available to members of the deaf community who may be experiencing a crisis.

Videophones that allow people to use American Sign Language are being added to the 988 suicide hotline. Tia Dole is a suicide and crisis lifeline officer based in New York. She appeared at a ceremony Friday in central Missouri’s Columbia unveiling the new videophone service.

“People need to be served in their own language,” Dole said. “People shouldn’t have to chat and text, that is English. ASL is not English. It is our own language, and people need to be able to receive culturally appropriate care in the language of their choice when they are in crisis.”

Dole said 15 percent of Americans struggle with their hearing, and wants the deaf community to know that 988 is there to help if needed.

Sol Romero is operations manager for Columbia-based DeafLEAD and is himself deaf.

“The launch of the 988 videophone, which is an extremely groundbreaking initiative even within the DeafLEAD agency, does provide deaf individuals with that direct access to suicide prevention services,” Romero said through an ASL interpreter.

The unveiling of videophone services was part of a ceremony celebrating the one-year anniversary of the national 988 crisis line.

Copyright 2023, Missourinet.