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FCC approves 988 as new suicide prevention lifeline number

graphic illustration depicting a student on the ground with roots coming from them describing elements of stress; mental health, homework, future, family, and job
(Graphic Illustration by Christine Moore-Bonbright | The Collegian)

The Federal Communications Commission approved a new three-digit dialing system in order to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

Similar to dialing 911 to reach emergency services, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by dialing 988 starting July 16, 2022. The hotline can currently be reached by dialing 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). 

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The lifeline’s longer number will remain operational after the switch to three-digit dialing. 

Due to this change, many area codes across the country that offer seven-digit local dialing must be transferred to 10-digit dialing, where the area code is always required to complete a call regardless of whether or not the recipient is within the same area code. This includes the 719 and 970 area codes in Colorado. 

According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, the 719 and 970 area codes entered a “permissive dialing period” starting April 24. During this time, customers within those area codes should begin dialing 10 digits for any local calls, but calls will still be completed if only a seven-digit number is used. After October 24, all calls will need to be made using a 10-digit phone number in order to be completed.

According to data from the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, the Colorado Crisis Services line saw a gradual increase in calls and texts from January 2019 to January 2021

“Anyone experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis can call or text the crisis hotline 24/7/365 to reach a trained professional,” said Lindsay Sandoval, media manager for the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health. “It’s free and confidential. Callers can choose to speak to someone who has gone through a similar experience — i.e. a peer specialist — if that is their preference.” 

According to Sandoval, the OBH is expecting more people to use the hotline with the implementation of an easier-to-remember number. In anticipation of this change, the OBH is “working with a diverse group of stakeholders to plan for 988’s implementation, including ensuring that the state’s hotline and crisis response system is equipped and ready to handle any increase in calls,” Sandoval said.

Nathan Groathouse, director of marketing and development for SummitStone Health Partners, said this change will simplify access to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

Groathouse said the change is “one of many that will be needed as we work to prevent suicide as one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.”

According to data from the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, the Colorado Crisis Services line saw a gradual increase in calls and texts from January 2019 to January 2021. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the line saw 16,922 uses. 

In spite of this change to a three-digit dialing system, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies said that current telephone numbers and area codes will not change, and services such as call prices and coverage areas will remain the same after 988 goes into effect. 

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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or by texting “TALK” to 38255. More information can be found at coloradocrisisservices.org

Natalie Weiland can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @natgweiland

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About the Contributor
Natalie Weiland, News Director
Natalie Weiland is a sophomore political science student with a minor in legal studies and a fierce love of the Oxford comma. Weiland grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and served as an editor for her high school’s yearbook during her senior year. She credits the absolute chaos of the 2016 presidential election for introducing her to — and getting her hooked on — the world of politics and journalism. Her journey with The Collegian started in the fall of her freshman year when she began writing for the news desk.  In her spare time, Weiland enjoys reading and attempting to not have a heart attack every time The New York Times sends a breaking news update to her phone. She has two incredibly adorable dogs (that she will gladly show pictures of if asked) and three less-adorable siblings.  As news director, Weiland's main goal is to ensure that students trust The Collegian to cover stories that are important to and affect them, and she hopes that students are never afraid to reach out and start a conversation. Weiland is excited to see what The Collegian has in store this year and hopes to explore the campus community through reporting. 

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