988: A Direct Link for Suicide Prevention
and Crisis Support
Pennsylvanians will soon have a new, easier way to connect to behavioral or mental health crisis services. Dialing 988 will connect callers directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to be operated through the existing
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sees 988 as a first step towards a transformed crisis care system in America.
Listen to Amanda Blue's story of loss and being brave enough to ask the hard question of "are you ok?"
When will 988 be implemented?
Starting July 16, 2022 — People who call, text, or chat with 988 will be directly connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The existing Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available. Callers can also connect with the Veterans Crisis Line or assistance in Spanish.
Who can call 988?
988 can be used by anyone, any time, at no cost. Trained crisis response professionals can support individuals considering suicide, self-harm, or any behavioral or mental health need for themselves or people looking for help for a loved one experiencing a mental health crisis. Lifeline services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no cost to the caller.
What happens when you call 988?
- Callers will be directed to a local 988 call center based on a caller's area code where trained professionals are waiting to listen and assist.
If a local call center does not answer the call within 60 seconds, the call will be routed to one of Pennsylvania's three regional 988 call centers.
Note: Callers will also be given the option to reach the Veterans Crisis Line (Option 1) or a Spanish speaker (Option 2).
If a regional call center is unavailable, the call will be routed to the national backup network able to assess the crisis and connect to local assistance.
How will 988 help Pennsylvanians?
988 counselors located at 13 crisis call centers around Pennsylvania can immediately provide phone-based support and connections to local resources.
If needed, the counselor can:
- Activate a mobile mental health crisis team that will arrive on site;
- Provide therapeutic interventions; and/or
- Make referrals for outpatient services or transportation for further evaluation.
By directing cases to 988 when a behavioral health or mental crisis isn't life threatening, the response provided by public services, such as law enforcement and EMS, can be reserved for situations in which lives are endangered.