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RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today announced it has been awarded $3.3 million to expand support for people in mental health crisis. This funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration to the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services will help North Carolina transition the Suicide Prevention Lifeline from the current 10-digit number to an easier, three-digit number — 9-8-8 — for people having suicidal thoughts or experiencing a mental health crisis.

On July 16, 2022, 9-8-8 will become the national three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, replacing the current phone number of 1-800-273-TALK (8255). People can talk, chat or text with trained call center staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Call center staff can provide crisis counseling along with information on local community resources and referrals.

"Increasing access to behavioral health services, especially in times of crisis is a top priority," said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. "9-8-8 is an easy-to-remember number people can access from wherever they are and get the help they need. This is a resource that will save lives and is an important investment in supporting the behavioral health and resilience of North Carolinians."

Call volume is expected to increase with 9-8-8 implementation, and grant funds will be used to ensure the call center is staffed with trained counselors to meet the increased demand. Callers will have access to trained crisis counselors and will receive follow-up services as needed.

"We are excited for the rollout of 9-8-8 and want to ensure every caller receives quick access to the help they need," said Deepa Avula, Director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services. “This will be instrumental in increasing access to crisis services in our communities."

This grant will run from April 30, 2022–April 29, 2024.

For more information about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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