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There’s Now a 911 for Mental Health

Dialing 988 in the US will connect callers to local crisis centers, but many communities are still building out services to meet growing demand.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to a spike in calls to mental health and suicide prevention hotlines.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to a spike in calls to mental health and suicide prevention hotlines.

Photographer: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A new national mental health hotline goes live on Saturday in what is considered a milestone for crisis services in the US, but many places are not yet prepared to handle increased call volume.

Dialing the number 988 will now connect to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which links to some 200 local crisis centers, and advocates stress that a comprehensive rollout will take time and resources. Much depends on how states, counties and cities implement mental health services — such as crisis centers, counseling and law enforcement training — to support the emergency number.