New National 9-8-8 Number for People in Mental Health Crisis

North Carolina -- August 1, 2022: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can now be reached by dialing 9-8-8, which will connect callers to qualified crisis counselors who are available 24/7.

The new three-digit number offers a quicker and simpler method to access the assistance that is already offered at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Since 2012, the NC Suicide Prevention Lifeline call center has been run by a joint venture between the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and REAL Crisis Intervention Inc. in Greenville. The contact center not only offers qualified crisis counseling, but also links callers to local resources based on their individual needs. The call center is introducing 24/7 chat and text replies in addition to changing the number to 9-8-8.
One of the most responsive call centers in the nation is located in North Carolina. The second-best rate among the 50 states in May 2022 was achieved by New York, when 98 percent of calls were answered in under seven seconds. Because it is simpler to remember and dial, the new 9-8-8 number should result in up to 30% more calls annually. To prepare for the increased load, the call center is hiring more personnel.

“Help is available to those experiencing a mental health crisis,” said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Our goal is to make 9-8-8 a household word that North Carolinians know they can access from wherever they are to get the help they need. This resource will literally save lives.”

“Getting help as early as possible is the most important step people can take to prevent a mental health crisis or keep it from getting worse,” said NCDHHS Deputy Secretary for Health Mark Benton, “The 9-8-8 number is a big step towards making it as easy as possible for people to reach out for help.”  

In order to implement 9-8-8, NCDHHS has been working with numerous community, local, and state partners. In April, the organization was awarded a $3.3 million federal grant. Additionally, the budget that was approved by the NC General Assembly and made law by Governor Roy Cooper included $1.3 million in ongoing appropriations to maintain the call center. To learn more about the NSPL, go to 988lifeline.org

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