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988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline starts Saturday

The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) will also remain available.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The new nationwide Suicide and Crisis Lifeline launches on Saturday.

All you will have to do is dial 988 to be connected with a trained mental health clinician. This is why we started doing 10-digit dialing with the area code. Here in New York when you call 988, you will be connect with one of 13 contact centers where someone will be able to help you. 

"988 is a new number people can call if they're experiencing a mental health crisis," said Melinda DuBois, Executive Director of Mental Health Advocates of WNY.

The hope is that it will be as easy to remember as 911. The goal is to connect people calling 988 to a trained mental health clinician.

"I would suggest you use it the same way you would use 911. So put it in your phone, put it on your refrigerator, make it available to anybody in your family," DuBois said.

The existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline isn't going away. 988 will connect you with it and someone here in Western New York primarily at Crisis Services.

"The point is really just to reduce utilization of law enforcement in response to mental health crisis needs, so people will really be able to use this in a way to avoid law enforcement access and really get services that they need in real time," said Jessica Okoniewski, Vice President of Adult Clinic Services at BestSelf Behavioral Health.

You can also call 988 to get help for someone else. Mental health experts say this signifies a massive change in the way we approach mental health.

"If you have a mental health crisis, you can call 988, talk to somebody. If it's more than that and you need somebody, you need that person to be seen, currently now you can take them to ECMC, but in the future you'll be able to go to kind of an urgent care facility where you can go and be evaluated by clinicians and psychiatrists and get the medications and treatment that you need," DuBois said. 

Again, the old hotline numbers will still work. 988 is just easier to remember. There is also a text option.

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