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FCC Staff Recommends Designating 988 as National Suicide, Mental Health Crisis Hotline


The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and its Office of Economics and Analytics have sent a report to Congress that recommends that the Commission considers designating 988 as a three-digit emergency code for a nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. The report, mandated by the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018, finds that such a three-digit number “would likely make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources.”

The report examines the feasibility of using various three-digit numbers and finds that 988 could be implemented more easily and quickly than repurposing an existing #11 code such as 511 or 611. The 988 code is a recommendation at this point and not active.

Suicide prevention assistance is available today through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, via 800-273-8255 (TALK). This national network of 163 crisis centers is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Calls to the lifeline are routed from anywhere in the US to the closest certified crisis center. In 2018, trained lifeline counselors answered more than 2.2 million calls and handled more than 100,000 online chats.

“Crisis call centers have been shown to save lives,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “This report recommends using a three-digit number to make it easier to access the critical suicide prevention and mental health services these call centers provide.”

Pai said he intends to move forward on the recommendation. — FCC News Release




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