Suicide & Crisis Lifeline will soon have a new number: 988

988 answers a call for help, said Dr. Ala Stanford, the Health and Human Services Regional Director for Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and DC

Just as one can call 911 for emergencies, Americans will soon be able to dial another three-digit emergency number.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline will connect people who are in crisis with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline beginning Saturday.

“988 becomes a way that everybody can go, ‘Oh, it’s easy,’” said Tim Jansen, chief executive officer of Community Crisis Services Inc. (CCSI) in Hyattsville, Maryland.

“They don’t have to remember 800-273-8255.”

Jansen joined officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in announcing the transition during a briefing at his facility on Tuesday.

The CCSI call center serves the lifeline locally and takes calls that roll over from busy or understaffed hotline centers throughout the nation.

Transitioning from a 10-digit to a three-digit crisis lifeline number is revolutionary, Jansen said, as need for the service grows.

The CCSI call center serves the lifeline locally and takes calls that roll over from busy or understaffed hotline centers throughout the nation.

A worker takes a call at the Community Crisis Services Inc. call center in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Anfeni Carroll, a mobile crisis technician, takes a call at the Community Crisis Services Inc. call center in Hyattsville, Maryland.

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A worker takes a call at the Community Crisis Services Inc. call center in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Last month, the lifeline talked with 50,000 more people — via chats, text and phone calls — than in June 2021.

“We know callers feel more safe and more mentally stable after speaking with a lifeline counselor,” said Erica Turner, CCSI’s chief clinical officer. “Our trained call specialists — they listen, they provide support and they offer resources.”

The executive director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Dr. John Draper, noted that more than 200 crisis centers across the country are part of the network.

“And all of this is being made possible by investments at the federal level, to some degree at the local level, and most importantly, by the crisis services counselors who are doing the hard work, who are basically our mental health systems first responders,” said Draper, who also is executive vice president of national networks for Vibrant Emotional Health.

“They are welcoming people who contact us walking into the psychic burning buildings and escorting them to a safe place where they can find hope, and healing,” Draper said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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