Governor Laura Kelly recently signed Senate Bill 19, adding Kansas to the growing number of states who will participate in the new phone number — 988 — to reach the national suicide prevention network. Starting in July, people in crisis and those trying to help them will have a three-digit number to dial for help.
Three-digit dialing to reach suicide hotline counselors has long been a goal for mental health advocates, lawmakers in Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. The Biden administration says it wants to help deliver an on-schedule launch this summer. The new 988 number will also handle text and chat.
“We know that remembering a three-digit number beats a ten-digit number any day, particularly in times of crisis, and I encourage every state to rev up planning to implement 988 for the sake of saving lives,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Mental health experts are hoping that the three-digit number will deliver a breakthrough in assisting people in crisis who may otherwise try to harm themselves. They predict call center demand will skyrocket once the new system is in place and people know about it.
People who call, text or chat 988 will be able to reach trained counselors who belong to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. Counselors at more than 180 local centers listen to people in crisis and provide support, connecting them with other services as may be needed. According to the Lifeline, the new dialing code will be available throughout the country starting July 16.