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story.lead_photo.caption Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday announced a new state-funded helpline for Arkansans who need mental health or substance abuse counseling. - Photo by Jeff Gammons

A state-funded helpline is available for Arkansans who need mental health or substance abuse counseling services, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced at a news conference Wednesday.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services contracted with the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care to create the helpline and provide other services. The cost of the contract and other services the Little Rock-based nonprofit provides weren’t immediately available.

“We have a challenge across the nation in terms of drug addiction as well as adequate providing of mental health services across our country,” Hutchinson said. “And Arkansas is no exception to those challenges that we face.”

Arkansans can call the mental health and addiction services support line at 1-844-763-0198. When they call, they’ll be connected with a representative who will give them about six recommendations for service providers in their area, said Patricia Gann, assistant director of the department’s Division of Aging, Adult and Behavioral Services.

Hutchinson also said that since some Medicaid funding rules changed in 2017, people have more access to counseling across the state.

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The rule changes included ending the moratorium on providers that can accept the dollars, changing the reimbursement rates to “encourage the expansion of counseling services across Arkansas,” allowing counseling providers and primary care physicians to work out of the same office and decreasing the “administrative burden” on providers, Hutchinson said.

Since 2017, the number of independently licensed providers certified to give mental health or drug addiction has risen from 31 to 207, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The number of behavioral health agency sites has increased from 253 to 311.

“This is great news for those that are suffering and challenged in these areas in our state,” Hutchinson said.

See Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for the full story.

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