SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- A new national three digit hotline is now providing valuable support for people experiencing mental health or suicide crisis.
Earlier this month, the "988" support line went into effect, providing nationwide assistance to people who are in crisis, or for others worried about someone who is.
"The 988 is essentially the national suicide crisis line, which has now been synthesized into one very simple three-digit line," said Frank Warren, San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Department Division Manager, Prevention & Outreach. "Now anyone who calls it can get immediate response from a caregiver, someone who can help them find resources, talk to them about their needs in that moment, so it's a really good thing for the nation."
The new 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is as an alternative to dialing 911 and will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Callers will be immediately connected to counselors, who will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.
The new, shorter phone number is intended to make it easier for people to remember and access mental health crisis services 24/7.
"The simplicity of a three-digit line means we make it so much more available, accessible and memorable, especially for our youth people, who are really impacted gravely by our suicide statistics, as well as the need for urgent and sometimes crisis care, and so that three-digit number will eventually save a lot of lives," said Warren.
When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network.
At the same time the 988 Lifeline becomes available, Central Coast Hotline continues to operate locally.
"All of our call handlers are based here in San Luis Obispo County, serving throughout the Central Coast," said said Michael Kaplan, Transitions-Mental Health Association Community Engagement Director. "We excel in connecting people with local resources and local referrals."
Kaplan stressed the importance of Central Coast Hotline to callers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
"If someone in the Central Coast calls 988, we don't know where that call is going," said Kaplan. "It could be going down to San Diego or up north, and if somebody is in crisis and they need to talk to a compassionate person on the other end, then great, they're going to be connected. but if they are looking for referrals, and if they are looking for specific local resources, that call handler is hitting Google, whereas if you call the Central Coast Hotline, you are going to get experts on the local resources. Right now, these are two options that you have. You can dial one or the other."
Kaplan added Hotline hopes to become part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network in the near future.
Currently with the launch of the new Lifeline, there are 13 call centers in California. Kaplan said more are likely to be needed.
"Once they have 988 running smoothly in California, they are going to need to look at the mid-sized counties and call centers and add them to the network," said Kaplan. "We believe that's going to happen and we're going to be ready. We've got a wonderful investment from Must Charities. We've updated all of our equipment and we're adding a texting component and we'll be ready when the time comes."
For more information on the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, click here.