GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Starting next month, you will have to dial the area code when making local calls if you have a line with a 616, 810, 906 or 989 area code.
The change is being made to allow for a new three-digit 988 number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Four Michigan area codes are being affected, along with dozens across the country. The area codes all have active lines with 988 in the next set of numbers.
When someone calls the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in Kent County, those calls are answered by Network180 in Grand Rapids. Andrew Boekestein, a manager with the Kent County Community Mental Health Authority, says a shorter number will be helpful.
“Instead of looking online or trying to find a number somewhere, those folks will be able to dial 988,” Boekestein said.
The line can provide support at any time and is staffed every day.
“People struggling, especially with suicidal thoughts, are usually very ambivalent about whether they want to follow through with suicide or not and are often looking for any support or any reason they can to continue or to get the help that they need,” Boekestein said.
The current number to the crisis line is 1.800.273.8255, which will continue to work even after 988 is fully operational.
Christy Buck, the founder of the be nice. campaign and the executive director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, says having fast access to the line is crucial.
“It’s going to be so helpful. It’s just like anytime we have three digits 211, 911. People remember those,” Buck said. “When someone is contemplating suicide, five minutes can make a difference for that person.”
If your area code is impacted, you will also have to update numbers in your cellphone that do not already have the area code saved. Suicide prevention organizations say the change will ultimately save lives.
“Having the availability of this three digit number could save people in your community,” Boekestein said.
The Federal Communications Commission says the change will happen on Oct. 24. The 988 number will be fully operational on July 16 of next year. The number is already available to wireless users.