NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – A new three-digit number – 988 – is now live for anyone in the nation to call and be connected to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. By having an easy-to-remember number, access to services and support can improve for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress.
The Lifeline accepts calls and texts to 988, and chats at 988lifeline.org/chat from anyone who needs support for a suicidal, mental health and/or substance use crisis. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and is a national network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential care and support to anyone experiencing mental health-related distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
“988 is a powerful tool that every single person can utilize if they need it,” said New Hanover County Health and Human Services Director Donna Fayko. “We know that mental health is a serious crisis in our community and around the nation. Suicide rates have increased, and less than half of adults with mental illness are receiving the treatment they need. By calling 988, someone can speak with a trained crisis counselor who can provide phone-based triage, support, and local resources – connecting them quickly to the care they need.”
New Hanover County 911 Communications has been trained on 988 enhancements and has processes in place to reroute calls when appropriate and to ensure there is a continued and direct link between the two systems. This will help ensure seamless referral of callers for appropriate care or response.
“911 will continue to be focused on emergency situations and dispatching Emergency Medical Services, fire and police as needed, and 988 will be focused on non-emergency crisis situations,” said 911 Communications Director Hope Downs. “Our team is trained in crisis response and will be able to assess every call to determine the best route for that individual or situation. We know every situation is different and requires different emergency or crisis responses, so the more tools we have to support our residents the better.”
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), fewer than 2% of current Lifeline calls require connection to emergency services like 911. While some instances may require a response from law enforcement or EMS when there is an imminent risk to someone’s life that cannot be reduced during the call, the 988 coordinated response is intended to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive manner.
In addition to 988 and 911, New Hanover County residents also have access to Port City United Connect at 910-798-4444. PCU Connect is a 24-7, locally manned call center where community members can get connected with resources and assistance for food security, safe housing, neighborhood-specific assistance, social services, relief programs, and more.
For more information about 988 and the support available, visit 988lifeline.org.