988 Offers New, Easier Way for Pennsylvanians to Connect to Mental, Behavioral Health Crisis Services

Starting July 16, 2022, Pennsylvanians will have a new, easier way to connect to behavioral or mental health crisis services. Dialing 988 will connect callers directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

76,000 calls were received by the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  from Pennsylvania residents in 2020.

In 2020, Congress designated the new 988 dialing code to be operated through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sees 988 as a first step towards a transformed crisis care system in America.

People who contact 988 via phone, text, or chat will be directly connected to trained counselors located at 13 PA crisis call centers who can immediately provide phone-based support and connections to local resources, if necessary. Between 80-90 percent of calls are resolved through conversations with call center staff, without further intervention. By directing cases to 988 when a mental or behavioral health crisis isn’t life threatening, the response provided by public services, such as law enforcement and EMS, can be reserved for situations when there is a risk to public safety.

If you’re in crisis, reach out now.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7.

  • CALL: Dial 988
  • TEXT– By texting 988, individuals will be asked to complete a short survey to let 988 trained crisis counselors know more about their current situation. After finishing the survey, texters will be connected to crisis counselors.
  • CHATLifeline Chat connects individuals with trained counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat.

The current Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, even after 988 is launched.

Who Can Use the New Number?

988 can be used by anyone who needs support for a suicidal, mental or behavioral health, and/or substance use crisis — no matter where they are or where they live.

988 can also be called on behalf of someone else. Counselors can offer guidance on helping a friend or loved one navigating a mental health emergency, and experts advise that people reach out particularly if a loved one reveals a plan to hurt themselves.

Lifeline services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at no cost to the caller.

What Happens When You Call 988?

When calling 988, the caller will hear the following recording:

“You have reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, also serving the Veterans Crisis Line. Para español, oprima numero dos. If you are in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, or are concerned about someone who might be, we are here to help. If you are a U.S. military veteran or current service member, or calling about one, please press 1 now. Otherwise, please hold while we route your call to the nearest crisis center in our network.”

The following steps will follow depending on the callers needs and call center availability:

  • The caller will be routed to a local PA 988 crisis call center.
  • If the call is not answered within 60 seconds at the local level, the call is routed to one of PA’s three regional 988 crisis call centers.
  • If a regional call center is unavailable, the call is routed to the national backup network.
  • Note: Veterans and Spanish-speaking callers are given options to connect to resources specific to their needs.

Trained, compassionate counselors located at 13 crisis call centers across Pennsylvania are ready to provide phone-based support and connections to local resources. Counselors may be able to provide referrals for treatment for mental health, substance abuse, or other behavioral health needs if to local service providers are available. Also, if the counselor recognizes the caller is in need of an in-person response, they are able to dispatch emergency personnel from EMS or law enforcement, or a mobile mental health crisis team if one is available in the caller’s area.

Additional 988 Resources