988: The new three-digit number for suicide prevention and mental health crisis care

Blog 988

For more than 15 years, people across the nation have connected to suicide prevention and mental health crisis care by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Through the years, the lifeline has received more than 20 million calls from people in distress looking for support when they need it most.  
In 2021 alone, HFUW’s 211 Crisis Line answered more than 11,000 crisis intervention/suicide calls. That is 30 suicide calls every single day from the three-county Central Florida area. 

Effective Saturday, July 16, 2022, it will be even easier for people to access care as they can now call a simplified three-digit number for help: 988.  

Like 911 and 211, the new 988 three-digit dialing code is confidential, free, and available 24/7/365, connecting those experiencing any mental health, substance use, or suicidal crisis with trained crisis counselors. It can be accessed through phone, text, and chat.  
This move to a simplified, more accessible three-digit number is a step toward a broader crisis response continuum in Central Florida, which was identified as a community need in Orange County’s Mental and Behavioral Health System of Care Community Analysis.  
Of note, although the 988 number is new, the service is not. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has been answered by Heart of Florida United Way’s 211 Call Specialists since 2010, is simply redirecting the 10-digit phone number to an easier-to-remember three-digit dialing code. The old number (1-800-273-8255) will continue to function even after the transition. 
HFUW will also continue to operate 211 in Central Florida — which provides information and referrals for health and human services.

988 Graphic 2 Updated