New 3-digit dialing code for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Beginning July 16, the 988 dialing code will be available nationwide for anyone who needs support for a suicidal, mental health and/or substance use crisis. The new three-digit dialing code connects people to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via phone call, text or chat.
In 2020, Congress designated the 988 dialing code to work in conjunction with the previous 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, creating a highly accessible line that individuals experiencing a mental health crisis can call and receive appropriate assistance nationwide. This number will be activated on all devices across the United States on Saturday, July 16.
“A primary goal of 988 is to be easy to remember and highly accessible for anyone who needs support for a suicidal, mental health and/or substance use crisis,” said Demi Johnson, behavioral health program specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
SAMSA offers guidance
Iowans can find the most up-to-date information about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. SAMHSA 988 guidance includes the following:
• What happens when I call 988? Starting July 16, when calling 988, you will first hear a greeting message while your call is routed to the local Lifeline network crisis center based on your area code. A trained crisis counselor will answer the phone, listen to you, work to understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support and share resources if needed. If the local crisis center is unable to take the call, you will be automatically routed to a national backup crisis center. The Lifeline provides live crisis center phone services in English and Spanish and uses Language Line Solutions to provide translation services in over 250 additional languages for people who call 988.
• What happens when I text 988? Text (English only) will be available through 988 by July 16. When you text to 988, you will be responded to by someone from a group of Lifeline crisis centers that respond to chat and text. This service will expand over the next few years to increase local and state level response. Once connected, a crisis counselor will listen to you, work to understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share resources that may be helpful.
• Do these hotlines really work? Yes, crisis lines like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline work. Numerous studies have shown that most callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed and more hopeful after speaking to a trained crisis counselor.
• If I call 988 will first responders (police and EMTs) be automatically dispatched? The primary goal of 988 is to provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the moments they most need it and in a manner that is person-centered. The vast majority of those seeking help from the Lifeline do not require any additional interventions at that moment. Currently, fewer than 2% of Lifeline calls require connection to emergency services like 911. While some safety and health issues may warrant a response from law enforcement and/or Emergency Medical Services (namely when a suicide attempt is in progress), the 988 coordinated response is intended to promote stabilization and care in the least restrictive manner.
• How is 988 different than 211? In most states, the 211 system provides health and social service assistance information and referrals. At the same time, 988 crisis counselors will provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress in the very moments they need it most. While generally being different in scope, these systems need to be aligned, and in many cases, local Lifeline centers also respond to 211 contacts. We envision that 988 crisis centers will need to continue to coordinate with 211 and other warmlines. This will help ensure an all-inclusive approach regardless of which number a person may use first.
Iowa Concern continues
“The reality of 988 is that it's not yet perfect, but there is a major shift in crisis response organizations across the state and country working to provide better care for those in need. We are living in a transformational time for mental health care, and I suspect that we will see many changes in the upcoming years,” stated Johnson.
However, Iowa Concern, 800-447-1985, continues as ISU Extension and Outreach's primary line to help provide stress counseling related to legal, crisis/disaster, financial or mental health questions or concerns. When Iowa Concern receives a crisis call, they will work to help decrease the crisis and then connect the caller with a service that can provide continuation of care.
Iowa Concern provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge; language interpretation services are available. Or visit the website,, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues. For more information about Iowa Concern, contact Tammy Jacobs at
Other resources
Project Recovery Iowa offers a variety of services to anyone affected by the COVID-19 pandemic or other natural disasters. Virtual counselors and consultants provide counseling, family finance consultation, farm financial consultation, referral information and help finding resources for any Iowan seeking personal support. Iowans of all ages may join groups online for activities and learn creative strategies for coping with the effects of the pandemic. Project Recovery Iowa will announce upcoming programs on the website and via social media to help Iowans build coping skills, resilience and emotional support. To request support, go to
Mental Health and Disability Services Regions are community-based, person-centered mental health and disability services systems providing locally delivered services that are regionally managed within statewide standards. Local access to mental health and disability services for adults and children with severe emotional disturbances are provided by established mental health and disability services regions to residents of Iowa regardless of the location of their residence. To find your local providers, go to

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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