Preparing for 988

Launching on July 16, 2022, 988 will become the national three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
988 America's Suicide Prevention & Mental Health Crisis Lifeline

Table of Contents

Background

In 2020, Congress designated a new three-digit dialing code – 988 – that will route callers to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL). The new three-digit code will take effect on July 16, 2022.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), is working to launch the new 988 code, which is expected to strengthen and expand the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Moving to 988 does not mean the current 800 number (1-800-273-8255) for Lifeline goes away. Dialing either number will route callers to the same services, no matter which number they use.

Benefits of switching to 988

Switching to a three-digit number means that callers who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts, who are at risk of suicide, or who are struggling with emotional distress will be able to call 988, an easy-to-remember number.

This will make it easier for Americans in crisis or who are worried about a friend or loved one to access the help they need, while decreasing the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues. Much like the use of 911 for emergency response, calling 988 will deliver a full range of crisis care services, essential to meeting behavioral health crisis needs across the nation.

Planning for 988 in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is working with a wide range of partner organizations and healthcare providers on the transition from the current 10-digit number (1-800-273-8255) to the new three-digit 988.

An implementation team has been formed with multiple partners who would be responsible for administration of services here in MA. These partners include: Call2Talk, Samaritans of Cape Cod and the Islands, Samaritans, Inc., Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, Samaritans Southcoast, Department of Mental Health, MassHealth, 911, Mass Behavioral Health Partnership who oversee the Emergency Service Providers, and the Mass Coalition for Suicide Prevention.

It is important to remember that while the number is shorter, it will still connect Massachusetts callers to the same compassionate, non-judgmental, confidential, support that has been available via the 24-hour Lifeline for many years.

988 job opportunities

The easier-to-remember number will expand access for callers, and that means staff and volunteers are needed more than ever. Working at a 988 Call Center provides an opportunity to get involved with meaningful work and truly make a difference for callers in need of support. 

Centers are hiring now for paid positions, internships, and volunteer roles. Extensive training and supervision are provided, and remote opportunities are available.  For information about current positions and how to apply, please visit each center’s website below:

  • Call2Talk (Framingham):
    Work as a crisis counselor to answer phones and respond to those who may be struggling. Volunteer, internship and full-time employment opportunities available. Positions at Call2Talk are located at their center in Framingham. Visit Mass 211 to send your cover letter and resume.
  • Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands:
    Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands is hiring for Crisis Line Associates and On-Call Shift Managers. Part-time and Full-time opportunities are available. Visit Samaritans on Cape Cod to apply.
  • Samaritans of Merrimack Valley: 
    Samaritans of Merrimack Valley is hiring for several positions, including full-time, part-time, and overnight Crisis Line Specialists as well as supervisory and management roles. Remote positions and signing bonuses are available for many positions! Visit Family Services of the Merrimack Valley to apply.
  • Samaritans, Inc (Boston): 
    Samaritans, Inc. in Boston is hiring for several Helpline positions, including coordinator and supervisor roles. Full and part time positions available, with competitive benefits for full time employees! Remote positions are available. Visit Samaritans Hope to apply.
  • Samaritans Southcoast:
    Samaritans Southcoast is hiring for part-time and full-time Helpline Managers and Specialists for remote-only work. Overnight, day and evening, and paid internship opportunities are also available! Visit Samaritans Southcoast to apply.

Information for crisis center workforce

Current employees and volunteers at our Massachusetts call centers can access required state trainings on the MassAchieve portal.

Frequently asked questions

What is 988?

988 is a direct three-digit phone line to trained National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call takers. Beginning July 16, 2022, 988 will be available 24/7, 365 days a year. Trained counselors, who are not clinicians, are available to provide free, confidential emotional support for people in distress and answer all calls at local crisis call centers. With an easy to remember number like 988, the Lifeline hopes to reach many more people in emotional crisis and connect those to services if needed.

Why do we need 988?

Suicide prevention is a critical need. Since 2008, suicide has ranked as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. The adoption of the new three-digit number reflects a commitment to delivering necessary intervention services. Similar to using 911 for emergency calls, switching to an easy-to-remember 988 for suicide prevention and mental health crisis services will make it easier for Americans in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues.

Who is 988 for?

Anyone. 988 is for anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis. It is also for an individual who is worried about a loved one and not sure how to support that person or where to get them help. Trained counselors, who are not clinicians, are available to provide free, confidential emotional support to all callers.

When does 988 take effect?

988 will go live on July 16, 2022. Individuals who need help today should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by calling 1-800-273- 8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chat, suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.)

Is 988 accessible to all callers and are there services available for specific groups?

Those who are deaf or hard of hearing may use the online chat function or TTY users may use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255. Additional information: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline services for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Language translation services are also available to all callers, specifically the Spanish Language Line can be accessed by pressing 2 after dialing. Additional information: Spanish Language services.

Service Members, Veterans, and their Families may reach the Veterans Crisis Line by pressing 1 after dialing, as well as by chatting online at veteranscrisisline.net or texting 838255.

LGBTQ youth may also use the Trevor Lifeline by calling 1-866-488-7386 or texting 678-678 to access information and support for LGBTQ youth.

Is the 1-800-273-8255 Lifeline number going away?

No. Moving to 988 does not mean the 800 number goes away. Dialing either number will get people to the same services, no matter which number they use. In the end, 988 is an easier-to-remember way for people to access a strengthened and expanded network of crisis call centers. The same centers who answer the 800 number will answer 988.

How will 988, 911, and the Emergency Services Program interact?

Increased collaboration between 988, 911, and the Emergency Services Program will give more options for those in crisis, such as dispatching mobile crisis teams to individuals in mental health, substance use or suicidal crisis rather than police, fire, or EMS, and greater coordination of care options like crisis stabilization units.

How is 988 different than 211?

Mass211 works to connect callers to a large array of health and human service organizations and providers that are convenient to where they live. This information and referrals are available 24/7/365 in over 150 languages. Mass211 is also home to one of the local Lifeline centers, as such, Mass211 call takers are highly trained to respond to callers experiencing loneliness, isolation, desperation, and potentially suicidal ideation and can provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the very moments they need it most.

Will text and chat capabilities be available for 988?

Chat is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat. People seeking chat services will be provided a pre-chat survey before connecting with a counselor that identifies the main area of concern. If there is a wait to chat with a crisis counselor, a wait-time message will appear. If demand is high, individuals can access the Lifeline’s “helpful resources” while waiting or call 1-800-273-8255 (or 988 after July 16, 2022). Once connected, a crisis counselor will listen to you, work to understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share resources that may be helpful.

Text will be available through 988 by July 16, 2022. When someone texts to 988, they will be responded to by a group of Lifeline crisis centers that respond to chat and text. Planning and developing infrastructure to increase local response to text and chat is underway. Once connected, a crisis counselor will listen to you, work to understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share resources that may be helpful.

We will continue to update this information as the July 16th launch date approaches.

Last updated: March 23, 2022
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