At its December 12 Open Meeting, the FCC officially selected “988” as the new national suicide prevention and mental health hotline number. The National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 (NSHIA) directed the FCC to study the feasibility of establishing a simple, easy-to-remember, three-digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system.

The FCC gave the North American Numbering Council (NANC), through its Numbering Administration Oversight Working Group (NAOWG), the task of developing a report and making a recommendation. After looking at whether such a code should be established and what three digits would work best, the NANC recommended the new “988” code.

In summary, the Order:

  1. Designates “988” as the three-digit dialing code for a national suicide and mental health crisis hotline system maintained by the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
  2. Requires all telecommunications carriers and interconnected VoIP service providers to make, within 18 months, any necessary changes to their networks to ensure that users can dial “988” to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
  3. Seeks comment on issues relating to nationwide deployment of the code, including call routing, dialing in certain geographic areas, mandating nationwide 10-digit dialing, deployment timeframes and implementation costs.

We will share more detailed information on timeframes, technical challenges, costs, and consumer education once the official Order is released. JSI will also participate on the 988 industry working groups as part of our representation on the NANC. In the interim, please contact Bridget Alexander White in JSI’s Maryland office at 301-459-7590 with any questions.