In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to operate through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the lead federal agency, in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Veterans Affairs, working to make the promise of 988 a reality for America. Moving to a 3-digit dialing code is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen and expand the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (the Lifeline).
Of course, 988 is more than just an easy-to-remember number—it is a direct connection to compassionate, accessible care and support for anyone experiencing mental health related distress – whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. Preparing for full 988 implementation requires a bold vision for a crisis care system that provides direct, life-saving services to all in need.
SAMHSA sees 988 as a first step towards a transformed crisis care system in much the same way as emergency medical services have expanded in the US.
In pursuit of this bold yet achievable vision, SAMHSA is first focused on strengthening and expanding the existing Lifeline network, providing life-saving service to all who call, text or chat via 988. Longer term, SAMHSA recognizes that linking those in crisis to community-based providers—who can deliver a full range of crisis care services— is essential to meeting crisis needs across the nation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Lifeline and will 988 replace it?
The Lifeline is a national network of over 200 local, independent, and state-funded crisis centers equipped to help people in emotional distress or experiencing a suicidal crisis. Moving to 988 will not replace the Lifeline, rather it will be an easier way to access a strengthened and expanded network of crisis call centers. Beginning July 16, 2022, people can access the Lifeline via 988 or by the 10-digit number (which will not go away).
When will 988 go live nationally?
The 988 dialing code will be available nationwide for call (multiple languages), text or chat (English only) on July 16, 2022. Until then, those experiencing a mental health or suicide-related crisis, or those helping a loved one through crisis, should continue to reach the Lifeline at its current number, (800) 273-8255.
How is 988 different from 911?
988 was established to improve access to crisis services in a way that meets our country’s growing suicide and mental health related crisis care needs. 988 will provide easier access to the Lifeline network and related crisis resources, which are distinct from 911 (where the focus is on dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed).
How is 988 being funded?
Congress has provided the Department of Health and Human Services workforce funding through the American Rescue Plan, some of which will support the 988 workforce. At the state level, in addition to existing public/private sector funding streams, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020 allows states to enact new state telecommunication fees to help support 988 operations.
Is 988 available for substance use crisis?
The Lifeline accepts calls from anyone who needs support for a suicidal, mental health and/or substance use crisis.
Too many Americans are experiencing suicide and mental health crises without the support and care they need. In 2020 alone, the US had one death by suicide about every 11 minutes — and for people aged 10 to 34 years, suicide is a leading cause of death.
Moving to an easy-to-remember, 3-digit dialing code will provide greater access to life-saving services.
There is Hope
Providing 24/7, free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress works! The Lifeline helps thousands of people overcome crisis situations every day
For any questions email 988.