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Change to suicide hotline number

Posted at 7:18 AM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 09:48:58-05

TUCSON, Ariz. -- When you need help, most of us know to dial 911, but now there are three, new digits that will be available to dial soon.

This new number is aimed to help those with a mental health emergency.

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to designate a three-digit number-- 988 -- to reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

People who work at CODAC Health Recovery and Wellness told KGUN9 it is a change that will save more lives.

Dr. Amy Munoz with CODAC says changing the number to 3-digits could not have come at a better time.

“According to the Center for Disease Control we’ve seen an increase of 33% in suicides. It’s the tenth leading cause for death in the United States currently,” Munoz said.

She added that most people are not embarrassed to call 911 for an emergency--so it should be the same when people call 988 for a mental health emergency.

“It also reduces the stigma related to accessing care when you are in a mental health crisis. You know again, equating it to a medical crisis makes it easier to access and it makes people want to reach out quicker,” said KGUN9.

The current 11 digit number, 1-800-273-TALK routes callers to one of 163 crisis centers. Calls made now using 9-8-8 would be directed to one of those crisis centers where counselors answered 2.2 Million calls last year. Calls made to 988 would also be directed to one of those crisis centers.

“It’s finally happening. It’s certainly relieving to me that it’s being acknowledged on that higher level and being taken seriously,” said Munoz.

Here is her message to those who need help.

“Sharing those stories and reaching out when you need will help normalize that care and you would be less reluctant to not reach out if your were just brave enough to reach out,” she added.

So far, the FCC has only proposed requiring all telephone service providers to accommodate the 988 number within 18 months. The next step is a comment period on the implementation, including the project's time frame.