LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevadans will have a new three-digit number starting Saturday (July 16) for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said in a Thursday news release that 988 will give residents access to immediate help and advice on behavioral health and crisis management.

The new three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will replace the current number, the news release said. During this transition both numbers will be available for use. 

For almost a decade, mental health advocates have asked for a three-digit number for people experiencing a mental health crisis. Fueled by this advocacy, the federal government and the Federal Communications Commission did extensive research. That research, the release said, led to passing the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (October 2020), which required the existing 10-digit national number to be converted to 988.

“Access to behavioral health and crisis support has never been more critical,” said Dr. Stephanie Woodard, that state agency’s senior advisor on behavioral health. She said 988 is part of a larger picture on crisis response services.

“It will provide a simple tool to address the complex issue of mental health.” 

All behavioral health crisis calls through 988 will continue to be routed to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call centers, including Crisis Support Services of Nevada (CSS-NV), which has been the Silver State’s statewide call center since the 1960s. To prepare for the transition to 988, CSS-NV has added trained staff, the release said.

“When someone is in crisis, that 10-digit number can be very difficult to remember so making it as simple as three digits 988, will increase access, especially in a heightened crisis. We don’t want to get rid of the other number, because some people are comfortable with it and do use that” said Misty Vaughan Allen, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Southern Nevada.

The call centers also have continued to participate in the national lifeline network, which means no call, text, or chat in Nevada will go unanswered.  

In 2021, Nevada’s Lifeline Center (NLC) received nearly 31,000 contacts from residents who were experiencing either a behavioral health crisis or thoughts of suicide. Between 2020 and 2021, the center reported a 42% increase in contacts, and that number is expected to continue to increase. By the end of 2024, the 988 Crisis Call Center is expected to receive nearly 100,000 contacts annually. 

Nevada will continue to use federal funding through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and American Rescue Plan funding allocated by Gov. Steve Sisolak to build a high-tech crisis call center, as well as a dispatch center, as part of a continuing investment in mental health care, the release said.   

More information on the rollout of the new number is here