The new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – What’s it all about?
In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Beginning on July 16, 2022, people nationwide can call a simple, easy to remember number – 988 – and be connected to trained counselors who can help them cope with a mental health emergency, and direct them to additional resources for mental health and substance use treatment.
Moving to a 3-digit dialing code is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen and expand the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
988 is more than just an easy-to-remember number; it is a direct connection to compassionate, accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health related distress, whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health, substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress.
988 is a first step towards a transformed crisis care system in much the same way as emergency medical services have expanded in the US.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Lifeline and will 988 replace it?
The Lifeline is a national network of over 200 local, independent, and state-funded crisis centers equipped to help people in emotional distress or experiencing a suicidal crisis. Moving to 988 will not replace the Lifeline, rather it will be an easier way to access a strengthened and expanded network of crisis call centers. Beginning July 16, 2022, people can access the Lifeline via 988 or by the 10-digit number (which will not go away).
When will 988 go live nationally?
The 988 dialing code will be available nationwide for call (multiple languages), text or chat (English only) on July 16, 2022. Until then, those experiencing a mental health or suicide-related crisis, or those helping a loved one through crisis, should continue to reach the Lifeline at its current number, 1-800-273-8255.
How is 988 different from 911?
988 was established to improve access to crisis services in a way that meets our country’s growing suicide and mental health related crisis care needs. 988 will provide easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire, and police as needed).
How is 988 being funded?
Congress has provided the Department of Health and Human Services workforce funding through the American Rescue Plan, some of which will support the 988 workforce. At the state level, in addition to existing public/private sector funding streams, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 allows states to enact new state telecommunication fees to help support 988 operations.
Is 988 available for substance use crisis?
Yes. The Lifeline accepts calls from anyone who needs support for a suicidal, mental health and/or substance use crisis.
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