GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While cellphone users are required to use all 10 digits when dialing to avoid unintentionally connecting to the national 988 crisis hotline, some landline users may still get sent there accidentally when trying to reach West Michigan businesses.
It has been a little more than six months since the 988 dialing code was rolled out for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. While the lifeline has been around for years, 988 created a simple, easy-to-remember way for those in crisis to get help for suicidal thoughts, other mental health problems or substance abuse.
There are 35 states and one U.S. territory that used 988 as a local exchange allowed seven-digital dialing, according to the Federal Communications Commission. To combat confusion with local business that have the 988 prefix, the FCC required a transition to 10-digit dialing.
While cellular companies like Verizon Wireless now require callers to enter a 10-digit number, some landline callers were caught off guard when trying to get in touch with a few local businesses.
“It’s hard to change the number after I’ve been in practice for over 20 years now,” said Dr. Vincent Dubravec, a West Michigan allergist.
When News 8 used a landline to call his number, which is among many in the Grand Rapids area with 988 prefix, we were redirected to the 988 hotline.
“Most of the folks have cellphones, but again the elderly folks, there’s still a number of patients we know that call with a landline we know of,” Dubravec said.
The Grand Rapids Public Library and The Fertility Clinic off the East Beltline also have 988 numbers. A staffer with the library released the following statement:
“Our number is still 616-988-5400. While 988 is a prefix for the library’s phone number, people in the area now need to use the 616 area code when making local calls. We’ve now made it a practice to always including the 616 area code when sharing our contact info with our community.”
Network180s’ Salmi is part of a state group that meets quarterly to discuss the 988 rollout in Michigan. She was not aware of the glitch in the landline system until News 8 contacted her. She said she will bring it to the committee attention immediately.
“It would have to take the communication companies be willing to roll that out, but it would be more helpful particularly for local businesses if everybody received that ‘Your call can’t be completed as dialed'” automated message, she said.