In 2020, Congress designated a new three-digit dialing code – 988 – that will route callers to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). The new three-digit code will take effect on July 16, 2022.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), is working to launch the new 988 code, which is expected to strengthen and expand the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Moving to 988 does not mean the current 800 number (1-800-273-8255) for Lifeline goes away. Dialing either number will route callers to the same services, no matter which number they use.
Switching to a three-digit number means that callers who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts, who are at risk of suicide, or who are struggling with emotional distress will be able to call 988, an easy-to-remember number.
This will make it easier for Americans in crisis or who are worried about a friend or loved one to access the help they need, while decreasing the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues. Much like the use of 911 for emergency response, calling 988 will deliver a full range of crisis care services, essential to meeting behavioral health crisis needs across the nation.
Massachusetts is working with a wide range of partner organizations and healthcare providers on the transition from the current 10-digit number (1-800-273-8255) to the new three-digit 988.
An implementation team has been formed with multiple partners who would be responsible for administration of services here in MA. These partners include: Call2Talk, Samaritans of Cape Cod and the Islands, Samaritans, Inc., Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, Samaritans Southcoast, Department of Mental Health, MassHealth, 911, Mass Behavioral Health Partnership who oversee the Emergency Service Providers, and the Mass Coalition for Suicide Prevention.
It is important to remember that while the number is shorter, it will still connect Massachusetts callers to the same compassionate, non-judgmental, confidential, support that has been available via the 24-hour Lifeline for many years.