NORFOLK, Va. — All you have to do to now get in contact with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is dial 988.
The new number launched Saturday with the goal of making it easy to remember what to dial.
In Virginia if you dial, it will most likely be answered by a call center called PRS (Peer Recovery Specialists) that's located in Virginia. There is another call center that services the southwestern part of the state, and back-up centers in place if needed.
From June 2021 to June 2022, there were about 4,700 calls per month in Virginia, but that number is expected to grow with 988 coming online.
On Saturday, calls to PRS were up by 99%, according to an official. That number is believed to be so much higher due to people seeing if the new 988 number works.
"We view the rollout of 988 as the ability for us to continue a transformation of our overarching crisis system," said Bill Howard, the director of crisis services and support with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. "Our goal is that every Virginian has someone to talk to, someone to respond, and a place to go in the event of a crisis."
People can also text 988, which officials believe will help younger people who may feel more comfortable texting.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline originally launched in 2005 as a 10-digit number.
Howard said they continue to evaluate staffing levels at the call centers. In 2021, the state created a fund to help pay for everything.
"Going into Saturday we were at 90% staffing for our call centers. With increased funding this fiscal year, we anticipate that staffing to increase as well," Howard said.