National Suicide Hotline to shorten emergency number

Published 10:00 am Sunday, March 6, 2022

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On July 16, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will change from 1-800-273-TALK(8255) to a more concise, easily identifiable three-digit number, 9-8-8.

9-8-8 is a safety net for people experiencing a mental health emergency. Once 9-8-8 goes live, if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, experiencing delusions, or displaying severe symptoms of mental illness, you should call 9-8-8 instead of 911. In August 2019, a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Health and  Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the North American Numbering Council released a report recommending the use of 9-8-8 as the 3-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

In July 2020, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) adopted rules that designated 9-8-8 as the new phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health counselors.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, federal legislation designating 9-8-8 as the three-digit dialing code for the Lifeline, was signed into law in October 2020.

The Federal Communications Commission has required telephone providers to make calls to the Lifeline via 9-8-8 accessible by July 16, 2022.

9-8-8 calls will be answered by trained staff in related call centers. 9-1-1 operators will not answer calls to 9-8-8 unless redirected by lifeline staff. The state of Georgia completed its first phase of planning for the implementation of 9-8-8 and is on track for full implementation when 9-8-8 goes live on July 16. As Georgia’s behavioral health authority, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) is responsible for responding to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline calls and coordinating services and support for Georgians who seek help through the line. Once implemented, 9-8-8 calls from Georgia will be routed through the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, established in 2006 to provide around-the-clock support to individuals in crisis. Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald attributed the success of the first phase of the planning process to the numerous people who have joined to help DBHDD plan for the implementation of 9-8-8.

“Georgia’s work to develop its crisis network over the past 12 years has DBHDD well positioned for change, and as we prepare to evolve, I am grateful to those who have stepped up to help inform our planning process in a thoughtful way,” Fitzgerald said in a press release. “I am very excited about this work, how important it is, both in preventing suicide and in building a diverse coalition to develop an infrastructure that supports Georgians’ mental wellbeing for generations to come.”

Until 9-8-8 goes live, anyone in Georgia that needs help related to mental health, substance use, or intellectual and developmental disabilities immediate assistance is available 24/7/365. Please call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225.