GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Starting Saturday, 988, the new national three-digit dialing code will take effect in Michigan, connecting people in the middle of a mental health crisis to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“The 988 number is another step toward strengthening and transforming crisis care and mental health services in our state, which is a key focus of the department,” Michigan Department of Health & Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a release. “This universal number means no matter where you live or call from, you can reach a trained crisis counselor who can help. We encourage Michigan residents or their family members to call 988 if they are experiencing mental health-related distress, emotional distress or a substance use crisis.”
Phone companies had to make some changes to accommodate the new code. For areas where 988 is used as the first three digits in a phone number, the area code is now required for local calls. That included several area codes in Michigan: 616, 810, 906 and 989.
Christy Buck, the founder of the be nice. campaign and the executive director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, calls it a slight inconvenience that can make a life-or-death difference.
“It’s going to be so helpful. It’s just like anytime we have three digits, 211, 911. People remember those,” Buck told News 8 last year. “When someone is contemplating suicide, five minutes can make a difference for that person.”
The original number, 1-800-273-8255, will remain active and people can still reach the lifeline through that number.