988: FCC approves proposal for 3-digit suicide hotline number

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Federal Communications Commission has voted to establish 988 as the new designated phone number people can call for assistance with suicidal thoughts.

The three digit number will make it easier for people to reach out for help.

The proposal says calls made to 988 would be directed to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of 163 crisis centers that is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Currently, the Lifeline is available by calling 1- 800-273-TALK and through online chats.

In 2018, trained Lifeline counselors answered over 2.2 million calls and over 100,000 online chats.

The proposal requires that all telecommunications carriers and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers make, within 18 months, any network changes necessary to ensure that users can dial 988 to reach the Lifeline.

The FCC will seek comment on all aspects of implementation, including whether a longer or shorter timeframe, would be needed to make 988 a reality.
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