STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ) — Soon, a shorter version of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be available for use when the number 988 will be added as a direct link to suicide prevention and crisis support.

Beginning on July 16, anyone who dials 988 will be directly connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“It’s an easier number to remember,” Centre Health Executive Director Denise McCann said.

This addition does not mean the current number will go away. Dialing either number will send callers to the same services no matter which number they use.

“Right now, maybe people don’t know how to find that number or don’t remember the number,” McCann said. “If they remember 988 they can get help.”

A text function through 988 will also be made available on July 16.

“Maybe people aren’t able to speak or they’re not in a setting where they can speak and that text gives them privacy,” McCann said.

Centre Helps is the local call center in Centre County for the hotline. McCann said 988 marks an important step for accessibility during mental health crisis.

“What I kind of say to people in our local communities, to other nonprofits and human service agencies and providers is if a person can get to us, we can get them to you,” McCann said.

McCann has been working with a 988 operations team across Pennsylvania to prepare for a possible increase in calls when the number officially launches. She said Centre Helps is staffed with multiple people answering calls at a time to meet demand.

“If you have more people calling the number and a higher demand for your resources, you’re gonna need to have better connections and maybe more staff or more mobile crisis available,” McCann said.

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McCann said having a well trained staff is key for these calls.

“They can be de-escalated just by having a compassionate, trained, confident listener on the other end of the line so that there’s no need for emergency services or other kinds of interventions.”

If you or someone you know is considering hurting themselves, help is available. Call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.