‘988′:Emergency Communications Center in Albemarle County prepares for new suicide prevention hotline

Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 6:17 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts, help will soon be just three digits away.

Just dial 988.

“Effective July 16, if you text or call that number, we’ll get you directly to a Crisis Call Center member that can walk you through what your emergency is and help over the phone,” Emergency Communications Center Executive Director Sonny Saxton said.

While the official shift to 988 was mandated by the federal government, Saxton says the work has been going on behind the scenes at ECC for years.

“We saw the need because of the extreme situations that we’ve seen in some of our communities,” Saxton said. “We’ve seen also a need to decriminalize mental health, and deescalate.”

The program is just weeks away from rolling out, but the commonwealth and central Virginia providers are still working on some of the logistical issues that come with a new system.

“For instance, when you call 988, we as a community would expect some anonymity when you make that call. But what happens if you do need a response and emergency medical response? We may not know your location if you’re not able to provide it,” Saxton said.

He says perfecting 988 will take years.

“I liken the build up to 988 similar to what we went through 30 years ago with 911. And some communities are still going through with 911, and that is the ability to consolidate and allow anyone to call a number and get it to the right, properly-trained individuals. So with 911, that took 10, 15 , 20 years,” Saxton said.

If you need help now, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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