988 is the new number to call for mental health assistance

Written by on July 8, 2022

988 is the new number to call for mental health assistance

By Brittany Sweeney
July 8, 2022

Currently, 13 centers across Pennsylvania are taking calls. (Photo | Creative Commons)

A new 3-digit mental health number will go into effect across the country July 16, replacing the 10-digit Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  

In Pennsylvania, call centers are preparing for an increase in the number of calls to 988, the new mental health phone number for an existing service, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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Kristen Houser, is the deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services within the state Department of Human Services.  

Thirteen centers across the state are already answering calls, Houser said, but her department will have to watch and see if this easier-to-remember-number will impact call volume and therefore drive a need for more operators. 

“That’s something we will be monitoring closely,” Houser said, “But I think concerns over workforce are certainly relevant. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) did provide some additional funding to the lifeline call centers to assist with that right now.”

Houser said 988 is now the universal number for the state’s county-based mental health services. Trained professionals answer and Spanish-speaking counselors are available, as is access to the Veterans Crisis Line.  

In Pennsylvania, 988 is now active for telephone use. Text and chat capacity will also be available after July 16.

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