Alabama braces for new 9-8-8 Suicide Prevention Lifeline issue coming in July – Reuters


On July 16, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will change from 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to a more concise and easily identifiable three-digit number, 9-8-8.

9-8-8 is a safety net for people experiencing a mental health emergency. Once 9-8-8 is activated, if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, delusions, or severe symptoms of mental illness, you should call 9-8-8 instead of 911.

In August 2019, a joint effort by the US Department of Health and The Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and North American Numbering Council released a report recommending the use of 9-8-8 as the 3-digit code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

In July 2020, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) passed rules that designate 9-8-8 as the new phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health counselors.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, a federal law designating 9-8-8 as the three-digit dialing code for Lifeline, was signed into law in October 2020.

The Federal Communications Commission has required telephone service providers to make calls to Lifeline via 9-8-8 available by July 16, 2022.

9-8-8 calls will be answered by qualified personnel in the relevant call centers. 9-1-1 operators will not answer 9-8-8 calls unless directed by lifeline personnel.

When the new number goes live on July 16, every person in every city in Alabama will be able to use 9-8-8.

“The current number is a ten-digit number and in the event of a crisis, this may cause individuals to be delayed in dialing, or they may not know the number,” Malissa Valdes-Hubert, public information officer at the Alabama Department of Mental Health told the Valley Times-News. “988 is more than just an easy-to-remember number – it will be a direct link to compassionate and accessible support for Alabamians who may be having suicidal thoughts, who are at risk of suicide, or who have mental health issues or a substance use crisis.

As part of Alabama’s Crisis Care System, Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama State Legislature, and the Alabama Department of Mental Health have funded four Crisis Centers that provide services at tiered levels.

These centers improve access to behavioral health services for people in mental health or addiction crisis. They help prisons and hospitals across the state by easing the burden of housing and caring for people in need of services.

Crisis Centers in Alabama are located in Community Mental Health Centers in Mobile, Montgomery, Huntsville and Birmingham.

Additionally, Alabama’s Crisis Care System has also set up mobile crisis centers throughout the state.

The goal of mobile crisis centers is to reduce the burden on emergency departments, hospitals, law enforcement, prisons and to improve access to “the right care, at the right time, at the right time”. place “.

Each center will have a mobile crisis team as part of the mobile crisis services. Community mental health centers may also include in their crisis services: co-response with law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, crisis peer support, crisis case management , regional call centers and respite options.

The State of Georgia has completed its first phase of planning for the implementation of 9-8-8 and is on track for full implementation when 9-8-8 goes live on July 16.

As Georgia’s behavioral health authority, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) is responsible for responding to calls from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and coordinating services and support for Georgians who request help online. Once implemented, 9-8-8 calls from Georgia will be routed through the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, established in 2006 to provide round-the-clock assistance to people in crisis.

Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald attributed the success of the first phase of the planning process to the many people who came together to help DHDDD plan for the implementation of 9-8-8.

“Georgia’s work to grow its crisis network over the past 12 years has positioned DBHDD well for change, and as we prepare to evolve, I am grateful to those who have stepped up to help illuminate our planning process in a thoughtful way,” Fitzgerald said. in a press release. “I am very excited about this work, how important it is, both in preventing suicide and in building a diverse coalition to develop an infrastructure that supports the mental well-being of Georgians for generations to come. to come.”

Until 9-8-8 goes live, anyone in Georgia who needs help with mental health, addictions, or intellectual and developmental disabilities is available 24/7/365. Please call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225.


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