Advocacy Alert: FCC Designates ‘988’ As 3-Digit Number for National Suicide Prevention Hotline Regulation Now in Effect

July 30, 2020

On July 16, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to establish 988 as the new nationwide 3-digit phone numbers for Americans needing help with suicide prevention. The Behavioral Health Association of Providers was one of the organizations that endorsed this proposal.

A national network of approximately 170 crisis centers, they are supported by local and state sources, both public and private. It is also the access point for the Veterans Crisis Line, which is managed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

As noted in the official press release from the FCC, "Suicide claimed the lives of more than 48,000 Americans in 2018, resulting in about one death every 11 minutes. An FCC staff report to Congress in 2019 proposed establishing 988 as an easy to remember three-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Staff analyzed various options and determined 988 was the best option for increasing access to crisis resources and ensuring the fastest possible transition. Establishing the easy-to-remember 988 as the '911' for suicide prevention and mental health services will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues."

The new rules will apply to all telecommunications carriers and one-way Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers. The rules provide a two-year transition, where calls to 988 will be directed to 1-800-273-TALK. All phone services providers are required to direct all calls to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by July 16, 2020. The online chat option at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will also remain operational.

For more information about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, visit the official website.

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