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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is being simplified, the change will impact how you make calls in Alaska

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 9:43 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A nationwide change is coming to a phone near you and it could be critical here in the state of Alaska. Beginning July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will switch from its current 10-digit number to the much easier to remember, 988.

“The transitions from the 800 Lifeline number to a three-digit Lifeline number is going to save lives,” says Dustin Morris, Area Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Alaska. “It’s going to save lives nationally and it’s going to save lives locally and hopefully reduce the overall suicide rate for our state.”

This change is based on the federal National Suicide Hotline Designation Act which was passed in October of 2020. Though the law has already passed, it will be a process of getting the new program implemented. Plus, the 988 Lifeline number isn’t the only thing that will change for phone users. All normal phone calls, local or national, will have to be dialed as 10 digit numbers. That means if you are calling a number here in the 49th state, you will have to dial the 907 area code plus the seven-digit local number in order to complete the call.

While it may seem like a shortened Lifeline number and the permanent change to 10-digit phone numbers aren’t connected, there is at least one simple reason for the shift. If that change is not made then any seven-digit number around the nation that begins with 988 would automatically send that call to the suicide Lifeline, according to an article on sip.us.

Here is a list of the important dates surrounding these changes:

April 24, 2021: The permissive dialing period begins, callers will be able to use both seven or 10 digit numbers locally.

October 24, 2021: Seven-digit numbers will begin to be phased out.

July 16, 2022: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number changes from 1-800-273-8255 to 988.

Alaska Communications recently announced a donation of $2,500 to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Alaska Chapter.

“We see this as a very positive thing, especially in Alaska where we see very high rates of suicide. Changing the Lifelines number to an easy-to-remember three-digit code will quickly connect people in crisis with life-saving resources,” says Heather Marron, Manager, Corporate Communications for Alaska Communications.

To Morris, this simple change means easier access to help and in his opinion that makes a big difference.

“If you have time for a crisis to subside and you have someone to talk you through those moments of despair and hopelessness the likelihood of you not ending your life increases dramatically so having a support system in place is critical to saving lives overall.”

While the shift to 988 is coming, it is important to remember that it’s still more than a year away, if you or someone you know needs to reach the Lifeline the current number remains 1-800-273-8255.

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