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Beginning Saturday, July 16, anyone contemplating suicide or experiencing emotional distress may call, text or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to speak with a trained counselor who can provide support and connect them to local resources if necessary.
Like the 911 emergency service, the number is staffed 24/7 nationwide, with a network of over 200 state and local crisis call centers.
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Legislation was signed in 2020 to replace a 10-digit hotline with the easy-to-remember three-digit number. The law required all telephone service and text providers to activate the 988 service no later than July 16, 2022.
Many crisis call centers experienced challenges in preparing for the transition. A June 2022 RAND study found that out of 180 behavioral health program directors surveyed, about half reported their agency had been involved in strategic planning related to 988. Others said their most common challenges were an insufficient mental health workforce and lack of funding, despite a $432 million investment from the federal government.