Utah mental health centers ready for switch to new 988 number

Mar 18, 2022, 8:30 AM | Updated: Apr 7, 2022, 11:26 am

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SALT LAKE CITY — Starting in July, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number will be upgraded to a three-digit calling code similar to 9-1-1, but for mental health support. The new calling code will be 9-8-8 and it can be accessed from any phone.

Utah mental health professionals said they are excited about the changeover.

“It’s easier to remember a three-digit [number] than a lengthy number,” Wasatch Behavioral Health Clinical Director Doran Williams said. He also said implementing the new number will help Utah mental health facilities do the work they’ve been doing.

“There’s a lot of centers now that have mobile crisis outreach teams that will go out, get a call [and] go out to wherever they need to,” Williams said. Partnering with law enforcement to help them understand mental health issues has also been helpful, according to Williams.

But despite the anticipation for the new calling code, some mental health professionals worry about handling future demand based on the number of calls.

“Some of the apprehension is just not knowing exactly what to expect,” Rachel Lucinsky with the Hunstman Mental Health Institute said. She is Director of Community Crisis Intervention and Support Services. 

“Wanting to make sure that we’re at our best and that we’re adequately staffed and resourced so that as more people are aware of these services, we can be appropriately prepared to meet that demand and be at our highest quality possible,” she said.

Williams had a different perspective.

“There’s always some bugs to work at along the way,” he said. “But I think it’s been very collaborative with each of the mental health centers throughout the state working together with [the Hunstman Mental Health Institute].”

Lucynski said she hopes the future provides more opportunities both for those who want to help and for those seeking help.

“My hopes are really that people just continue to feel like there is a well-known number and a well-known resource to use when either they have thoughts of overwhelming mental health challenges or potentially suicidal thoughts,” she said.

“I see a broader and more diverse workforce, especially now that, with the pandemic, we’ve really embraced remote and hybrid work structures where we can have more crisis workers across the entire state of Utah that are supporting this system and providing really localized expertise for people in their communities.”

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Utah mental health centers ready for switch to new 988 number