On December 12, 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started the process of designating 988 as a new, nationwide, 3-digit number for a suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.
The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes that calls made to 988 would be directed to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of 163 crisis centers that is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In a report to Congress released in August, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics recommended 988 as that new 3-digit dialing code. The report found that a 3-digit suicide hotline number “would likely make it easier for Americans in crisis to access potentially life-saving resources.”
The Notice would require that all telecommunications carriers and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers make, within 18 months, any network changes necessary to ensure that users can dial 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
In 2018, the FCC stated that Lifeline counselors answered over 2.2 million calls and over 100,000 online chats.