FCC approves texting '988' to reach National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by next year

In this Aug. 11, 2019 file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. Federal regulators voted in November 2021 on whether to make "988" the number to reach a suicide prevention hotline by text.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) -- The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday unanimously voted to require text messages sent to the number 988 be routed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by next year, expanding access to the critical 24/7 national hotline.

Phone carriers are in the process of nationwide implementation of 988 as the easy-to-remember number to call and be directed to the hotline, after the FCC last year finalized the three-digit number.

Both texting and calls to 988 will now need to be implemented by July 16, 2022.

Callers can currently reach the hotline by calling the 10-digit number: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

The commissioners noted that a texting option will benefit young people and people with disabilities seeking help.

"The bottom line is that it shouldn't matter if you make a voice call or send a text message because we should connect people in crisis to the resources they need no matter how they communicate," Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said during the FCC's open meeting.

The implementation of a three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline comes as suicide is a growing public health problem in the United States, compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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