Md. Officials Say Response Positive Since New Suicide Prevention Hotline Number Went Into Affect On Saturday

They say 988 is easier to remember.

Baltimore, Md. (KM) – Since Saturday, July 16th, there’s a new number for the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Instead of 1-800-273-8255, it’s now 988. Tara Hargadon, Assistant Secretary of Customer¬† Experience for the Maryland Department of Health, says since this easy-to-remember number went into operation last week, reaction has been positive. “We saw a lot of calls just this weekend alone just really asking what about all the resources that that 988 is offering to Marylanders,” she says.

Hargadon points out that it’s much easier to remember the three-digit, 988 number than the old ten-digit number. “You don’t have to think about ten digits,” she says. “Knowing just those three easy numbers, particularly too if it’s 988, we can get you right to the resources you need.”

Frederick County residents calling 988, as well as those in Washington, Allegany and Garrett Counties, will be connected to the Mental Health Association of Frederick County, located on South Jefferson Street in Frederick. Maryland has eight call centers statewide.

Like the old number, 988 is in operation 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, throughout the year. . Hargadon says the call takers are highly trained to handle any situation, and that includes trying to talk someone on the phone out of committing suicide. “They have counseling training, and development training that they do on a regular basis to really question, persuade and really understand the situation that’s in front of them,” she says.

However, citizens who moved into Maryland from another state and continue to use the cell phone number of their former home state will be referred to that state’s call center when calling 988. “No matter where you’re coming from, if you have a telephone number that’s an out-of-state telephone number but you’re currently a Maryland resident, you will be connected to that state’s 988 line,” says Hargadon. “But there will be a ‘warm hand off’ in that discussion from the individual you are speaking with from the state your telephone is connected to back to your home state where you’re currently in.”

Local call centers are expected to see increased calls from individuals now that the 988 line is in operation.

“Anyone in crisis–and no crisis is too big or too small–you just know you do have someone supporting you here in Maryland. And by calling 988, we will get the resources that you need to handle any situation that’s in front of you. So please know that you are not alone.”

By Kevin McManus